Top 10 of 2012


2012 Top 10

It is almost a given that any film critic worth their salt is going to do a year-end list of the best films of the year. It’s de rigueur; it’s expected; it’s standard; you don’t get to wear the film critics t-shirt unless you do one. As I’m particularly fond of mine, I guess I’d better go ahead and give it a shot.

Some critics have a kind of scientific method that they use to determine their list. Me, I’m much less formal. I look back over my ratings and choose the movies I gave 10s to at the top, ranking them basically by how I’m feeling about them now. Next comes the 9s, then the 8s if it comes to that (and this year it didn’t). I ignore the half points, so you might see a 9 ranked above a 9.5. I don’t stand on ceremony as you can see.

The story of 2012 is that there were three movies that were at the top of my charts basically the entire second half of the year – nothing that came out in the fall really challenged the top three. The thing is, none of the three really stood out head and shoulders among the others; you could say it’s a three way tie for first. I have ranked them from one to three for the purposes of this list but throughout the year I’ve generally waffled as to what order that I’ve placed them in. I’ve shuffled, re-shuffled and changed my mind a million times. Each one of them has been my favorite movie of the year at various times throughout the year.

In fact, the list (as most lists do) has a highly fluid quality to it. For the most part, I’m pretty satisfied with the ten movies on the list and I don’t think I’d change any of the movies on it, but you never know. For now, these are the top ten movies of 2012, although ask me again tomorrow and the order might change completely but I think you’d find all ten of these movies on the list.

Some of these movies remain in general release even as we speak; you can head right out to a theater and see them the way they were meant to be seen. Some are already out on DVD/Blu-Ray and you can enjoy them in the comfort of your own home – or they soon will be. Lag time between theatrical release and home video release has been shrinking of late plus many films are being released on VOD concurrently to their limited theatrical release, although none of those are on the top ten at the moment. For those whose interests are piqued about the movies from the snippets I publish here, click on the movie’s title to see my original review and if you’d like to find out more, click on the picture above the review to be taken to the film’s official website when available.

As with any list, I guarantee mine will differ with yours significantly. Although I don’t think anyone has ever taken issue (at least publically) with my list, feel free to leave a comment as to why I know nothing about movies and which movies should have been on it, or not on it. Why make a list after all if you’re not going to disagree with it?

HONORABLE MENTION

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

Craigslist Joe, Renee, Arbitrage, Argo, Headhunters, Turn Me On Dammit, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Bully, Thin Ice, God Bless America, Brave, Safety Not Guaranteed, Frankenweenie, The Salt of Life, Skyfall, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Bernie, The Secret World of Arrietty, The Avengers, Girl Model, Moonrise Kingdom, ParaNorman, A Late Quartet, Sleepwalk With Me, Goon, Life of Pi, The Sessions, A Bag of Hammers, Paul Williams: Still Alive, Chely Wright: Wish Me Away, Seven Psychopaths, Ted, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey10. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

(New Line) Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian Holm, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee and a cast of thousands. Directed by Peter Jackson

Released December 16, 2012 After years of being held up by MGM’s financial issues, the classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien finally made it to the screen and in typical Hollywood fashion, the shortest of his novels will now be three films by itself. Still, the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a license to print money for WB so you know it was inevitable that they’d milk it for all it’s worth. We’ll be seeing another Hobbit movie every year through 2015. After that, Silmarillion anyone?
WHY IT IS HERE: An epic adventure on a grand scale. Jackson has made Middle Earth come to life, living and breathing and he does so once again here. Using high frame rate technology, the Shire never looked so beautiful or Rivendell so serene. While it didn’t impress me at the level of the first trilogy, this is still a very good movie.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: At Rivendell, Gandalf and Galadriel communicate telepathically, both revealing hidden secrets as they discuss the dwarf mission to Erebor and the presence of the Hobbit. Two great actors do almost the entire scene with just their eyes and body language while the dialogue is read voice over. Magnificent.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $267.9 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $830.7 million total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

The Dark Knight Rises9. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

(Warner Brothers) Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman. Directed by Christopher Nolan

Released July 20, 2012 We knew in advance this would be Christopher Nolan’s last foray into Gotham and probably Christian Bale’s as well. After the major success that was The Dark Knight there was a great deal of anticipation although the inevitable backlash that comes after that kind of success was certainly lurking. The box office surely didn’t disappoint although one wonders if the competition from The Avengers didn’t keep this one from going a bit higher.
WHY IT IS HERE: A fitting end to the Dark Knight trilogy, Nolan pulls out all the stops with multiple villains, new gadgets and potential nuclear holocaust. The action was as good if not better than The Avengers and we get to see Batman at his most heroic.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt faces down a group of cops on a bridge with the lives of a bus load of kids hanging in the balance.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $448.1 million domestic (as of 1/11/13), $1.1 billion total.
BUDGET: $250 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon/Blockbuster. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster.

The Intouchables8. THE INTOUCHABLES

(Weinstein) Omar Sy, Francois Cluzet, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaia Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri, Gregoire Oestermann, Josephine de Meaux, Dominique Daguier, Francois Caron, Thomas Soliveres. Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

Released May 25, 2012 This was a box office record setter in France, capturing the imagination of French audiences as well as critical acclaim and major awards (including a Cleo for Sy as best actor). While overly sensitive politically correct American critics took pot shots at the relationship between Driss and Phillippe (white paraplegic employer, black attendant) it was based on an inspirational true story.
WHY IT IS HERE: I dare anyone to watch this all the way through and not feel better about life and the universe we live in. Da Queen will tell you I was in a terrible mood when I went to see this; when we left the theater I was a decent human being again. This should be mandatory viewing for depressives.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When Driss gets to drive Philippe’s Mazerati for the first time. Priceless.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $10.2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $420.8M total.
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release on March 5.

Monsieur Lazhar7. MONSIEUR LAZHAR

(Music Box) Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx, Brigitte Poupart, Jules Philip, Daniel Gadouas, Seddik Benslimane, Marie-Eve Beauregard, Louis Champagne, Andre Robitaille, Francine Ruel, Helena Laliberte. Directed by Philippe Falardeau

Released April 13, 2012 As with the last feature on the top ten list, this was presented here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. It was, like the previous film, Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film. The similarity stops there however; this is a much darker and dramatic film than the uplifting Intouchables.
WHY IT IS HERE: This deals with grief in several different ways, from the grief of children to the grief of adults. The snowy white Montreal backdrop gives the film a sense of insulation that is both warm and cold at once; it is no accident that the action begins in the winter and concludes in the spring. Fellag gives the kind of performance which would have attracted much more notice had he been working for a major distributor or for an American-made film. It’s a hard, hard film to watch at times but by the time it’s over chances are you’ll have learned something about yourself.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The courtroom scene in which Lazhar relives the tragic incident that drove him to Canada.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $2 million domestic (as of 1/17/13), $6.6M total..
BUDGET: Not available.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Netflix/iTunes.

Cloud Atlas6. CLOUD ATLAS

(Warner Brothers) Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Brody Nicholas Lee, Raevan Lee Hanan, Alistair Petrie. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Released October 26, 2012 This is based on the David Mitchell novel that was widely thought to be unfilmable. The Wachowskis engaged their close friend Tykwer with each directing half of the sequences. Despite the all-star cast, marketing this epic work turned out to be nearly impossible and the movie made almost no box office impact whatsoever here in the States.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that talks about repression and personal responsibility in ways that we’re often not used to it. It shows that the ability of one human to force another to end to their will is timeless; so is the ability of one human to stand up and say no. There is an epic scope in each of the different segments – each set in a different era in history, three in the past, one in the present and two in the future. Cerebral science fiction, when done well can be as stimulating as any genre of movie extant but sadly, it isn’t generally cost-effective. This was overlooked by a lot of critics and granted, there were some flaws but such was its ambition that one can overlook them when admiring the whole.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Timothy Cavendish’ s break-out from the nuthatch in the 2012 sequence.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $27.1 million domestic (as of 1/19/13), $71.2 million total.
BUDGET: $102 million
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in May 2013. It may still be seen in second-run theaters.

Chasing Ice5. CHASING ICE

(Submarine Deluxe) James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson, Louie Psihoyos, Adam LeWinter, Kitty Boone, Jeff Orlowski, Tad Pfeffer, Suzanne Balog, Dennis Dimick, Emily Balog, Simone Balog, Sylvia Earle, Jason Box, Synte Peacock. Directed by Jeff Orlowski

Released November 16, 2012 The growing climate change has become an issue everywhere else in the world, but here in the United States there is oddly no dialogue, unless it is to ridicule Al Gore for his attempts to bring it to the attention of Americans. This movie was an attempt by one of the world’s most passionate and respected nature photographers to document the erosion of the world’s glaciers. It received an Oscar nomination for Best Song but oddly, not for Best Documentary Feature.
WHY IT IS HERE: This documentary shows graphically the importance of glaciers to the global eco-system, the potentially catastrophic consequences of their continued erosion and shows measurably that it is happening right now. The movie is eerily beautiful as it terrifies.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scenes near the end of the film where the erosion of the glaciers is graphically shown. It’s beautiful and terrifying.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $970,721 domestic (as of 1/19/13), $970,721 worldwide.
BUDGET: Not available
STATUS: Scheduled for home video release in April 2013.

Lincoln4. LINCOLN

(DreamWorks) Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Tim Blake Nelson, Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Peter McRobbie, Gloria Reuben. Directed by Steven Spielberg

Released November 9, 2012 This biography of America’s 16th (and perhaps best) president had long been in gestation as Spielberg meticulously researched his life and times, recreating his office down to the wallpaper. It has been something of a surprise hit, with Day-Lewis up to his usual standards of performance, garnering an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win to add to his trophy collection.
WHY IT IS HERE: This really gives you a sense of the man behind the majesty, a man who has carried the weight of a bloody civil war on his broad shoulders and is beginning to buckle. This Honest Abe is not above political chicanery and is not above shouting at his subordinates to get this vote done. And the great Mr. Lincoln drove the people around him crazy with his stories, like the long-winded uncle everyone avoids at family reunions. Not that I have a long-winded uncle.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The vote on the floor of the House of Representatives is gripping even though most Americans who know their history know how it turns out.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $156.6 million domestic (as of 1/18/13), $156.6 million total.
BUDGET: $65 million.
STATUS: Still in wide release.

Cabin in the Woods3. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

(Lionsgate) Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Bradley Whitford, Richard Jenkins, Sigourney Weaver, Brian White, Amy Acker, Tim De Zarn, Tom Lenk, Dan Payne, Jodelle Ferland, Dan Shea, Maya Massar, Matt Drake. Directed by Drew Goddard

Released April 13, 2012 This was a pretty good year for Joss Whedon who not only directed the biggest blockbuster of the year but produced this film as well. The movie actually had been languishing in the vaults of MGM during its bankruptcy woes and was picked up by Lionsgate who were sadly never really able to get across to the public what a great ride this movie is.
WHY IT IS HERE: Those who love Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (which itself is being remade later this year) are going to love this. Part horror spoof, part action flick, part Lovecraftian gorefest, part conspiracy flick and all of it fun, we get a solid cast, put them in a playground and watch them get mind raped. It has been a rare thing that I’ve had this much fun at a movie and although it starts off a bit slow, when it gets going it REALLY takes off! Just keep asking yourself this: Am I on speaker phone?
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The elevator ride down into the bowels of the complex.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $42.1 million domestic (as of 1/20/13), $66.5 million total.
BUDGET: $30 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Lady2. THE LADY

(Cohen Media Group) Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett, Jonathan Woodhouse, Susan Wooldridge, Benedict Wong, Flint Bangkok, William Hope, Victoria Sanvalli, Danny Toeng, Nay Myo Thant. Directed by Luc Besson

Released April 11, 2012 This biopic of Burmese freedom fighter Aung San Suu Kyi was my favorite film from last year’s Florida Film Festival and a very real contender for my favorite of the year period. Oddly, it got extremely disappointing reviews which I found incomprehensible – but the box office figures were far more disappointing than the reviews.
WHY IT IS HERE: This is a movie that shows how resilient the human spirit is. Suu Kyi is one of the most courageous people of our time and yet her story is largely unknown in the West. Michelle Yeoh gives a performance that in a just world would have been considered for an Oscar – it’s at least on par with favorite Jessica Chastain’s. However because of the almost non-existent theatrical release and the critical shellacking it received, most people will never get a chance to see it.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene in which Aung proudly listens to her son Alexander give the acceptance speech for her Nobel Peace Prize, the ceremony for which she was unable to attend.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Domestic box office figures unavailable (as of 1/23/12), $3.4 million total.
BUDGET: $29.4 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Blockbuster.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel1. THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

(Fox Searchlight) Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Lillette Dubey, Sid Makkar, Seema Azmi, Diana Hardcastle, Lucy Robinson, Paul Bhattacharjee. Directed by John Madden

Released May 4, 2012 General movie audiences notoriously find movies about the elderly to be anathema. It’s not hard to figure out why – moviegoers are mostly teens and young adults; that demographic doesn’t really care about the elderly and their issues because they simply aren’t there yet. This one, however, struck a chord with audiences of all age groups.
WHY IT IS HERE: I have to admit I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting India for most of my life. I’d heard about the noise, the smell, the crowded conditions and the heat – it didn’t sound like my particular cup of tea. That all changed after I saw this movie and saw India from a completely different viewpoint. Besides that, this is a movie about aging and living as an “old person.” You might look at aging differently when you see this.
HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tom Wilkinson’s strolls through town were always full of joy.
BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $46.4 million domestic (as of 1/23/12), $134.4 million total.
BUDGET: $10 million.
STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/iTunes.

Skyfall


Skyfall

As classic Bond as it gets.

(2012) Spy Action (MGM/Columbia) Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Berenice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace, Rory Kinnear, Nicolas Woodeson, Bill Buckhurst, Elize du Toit, Tonia Sotiropoulou. Directed by Sam Mendes

 

James Bond is not just a classic; it’s a brand name for many of us. When we attend a Bond movie, we have certain expectations – incredible, jaw-dropping stunts, a charismatic villain, gorgeous women for Bond to seduce and exotic locations.

Within those expectations there are also others; gadgets of some sort or another, nifty cars, a haughty M, a title sequence with beautiful  women writhing about apparently naked, martinis shaken not stirred and so on and so forth. Mess with them and you are likely to have the purists come to your door with pitchforks and torches.

The filmmakers have no need to fear a mob after the latest Bond flick. As the film begins, a hard drive is stolen containing the names of every MI6 agent undercover in terrorist organizations. Bond (Craig) chases the perpetrator, a smooth hitman named Patrice (Rapace) over the rooftops of Istanbul and on the top of a moving train, followed by an inexperienced field agent named Eve (Harris) and monitored by M (Dench) and her chief-of-staff Tanner (Kinnear). It soon becomes apparent that Eve can no longer continue to chase the train and she gets herself to a vantage point where she can get  clear shot at the combatants but as the train approaches, she doesn’t have a clear shot. M orders her to take it anyway and Bond falls down and goes boom, off of a speeding train over a bridge and into a river.

Of course he survived. He’s James Bond. You could drop the Empire State Building on his head and he’d pick himself up, dust himself off, let loose a choice witticism and head for the nearest bar for a martini (shaken, not stirred). However, in his absence MI6 has come under siege. A bomb is planted in their headquarters. M is now answerable to a new Minister of Defense, Gareth Mallory (Fiennes) who is gently urging her to retire. The ever-prickly M refuses. She needs to find out who is behind this before she can go.

Bond is much the worse for wear when he returns. The gunshot wounds have played havoc with his shoulder, making aiming a gun a bit more problematic. He has become dependent on alcohol and has unresolved issues of rage aimed at M for not trusting him to finish off Patrice himself. Even though he’s clearly not ready to go back in the field she sends him there anyway and he follows Patrice back to his employer, a former MI6 agent named Silva (Bardem) with a grudge against M that goes beyond fury and reason. He is a computer whiz who was able to hack the MI6 mainframe and in doing so, set up a plan that ends with the destruction of MI6 and the death of M. But with James Bond on the job, England can rest easy. Can’t she?

This is simply put one of the best Bond movies ever; when Craig debuted in Casino Royale there was a sense that he was going to do great things in the franchise. After a misstep in the poorly conceived Quantum of Solace this is a gigantic leap forward. Sam Mendes, director of American Beauty clearly knows his Bond. The pacing here isn’t breakneck but it’s fast enough to keep us breathless but not so fast that we can’t enjoy the ride.

There are nods here to the Bond movies of yesterday with old friends making their reappearances including Q (Whishaw) and other people and things who I will leave nameless so as to not spoil the surprise of their appearances which in every case were met with spontaneous “Ahhhhhh” sounds from the audience.  

Craig is perhaps the most battered Bond in history; he gets shot more than once and is riddled with scars physical and psychological. Craig plays Bond with the cool of Sean Connery and the physicality of Jason Statham. The movie goes into Bond’s backstory more than any other has before it (the climactic fight takes place in Bond’s childhood home) in which much that is past is made to be left there, leaving the film’s final scenes to pave the way for the franchise’s future.

Dench is a revelation here; while Bond has never been what you would call an actor’s franchise Dench shines as M in a way Bernard Lee never would have been allowed to and turns the character into a force of nature. Makes you wish Dench would be given the vacant slot at the CIA.

Bardem, an amazing villain in No Country For Old Men, shows that he might very well be the best screen villain since Anthony Hopkins. He is scary and psychotic with a particular axe to grind; he’s not after world domination but merely to rid himself of his demons so that he may live the life he chooses, a life uniquely suited to him. It’s a believable villain which is made the more layered with his apparent bisexual impulses and a pretty strong knowledge of psychological warfare. Silva is brilliant, physically capable and remorseless; he makes a fitting adversary for Bond, one in which we’re not always certain Bond can triumph over.

This is definitely a must-see movie this holiday season. It has the epic scope that marks many of the best Bond films but a lot of the human elements that make it a great film period. Even if you aren’t fond of the Bond franchise you may well find something to love here and if you are, you will undoubtedly find that the movie treats the 50 years of the franchise with respect even as it reinvents it for the next 50 years, a neat trick that requires remarkable skill to pull off. Reason enough to celebrate.

REASONS TO GO: Destined to take its place as a Bond classic. Shows proper reverence but modernizes the series at the same time.

REASONS TO STAY: A few logical lapses and a bit too much product placement gets distracting.

FAMILY VALUES:  Like all Bond movies, there’s plenty of violence, sex and smoking. There are also a few mildly bad words here and there.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Skyfall is the first Daniel Craig-era Bond film to use a title that didn’t come from Ian Fleming. Currently there are only four titles left from Ian Fleming-written James Bond stories that have not been used for the films; The Property of a Lady, The Hildebrand Rarity, Risico and 007 in New York City

CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/24/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 92% positive reviews. Metacritic: 81/100. The reviews agree that this is one of the best Bonds ever.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Goldeneye

KOMODO DRAGON LOVERS: .A pair of these gigantic lizards can be seen in a pit at the Golden Dragon Casino during a fight scene.

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

NEXT: Rise of the Guardians

New Releases for the Week of November 9, 2012


November 9, 2012

SKYFALL

(Columbia/MGM) Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Dame Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Berenice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace. Directed by Sam Mendes

James Bond is back, and in an adventure that for the first time looks into the background of M, the mysterious boss of MI-6. When a figure from her past threatens to destroy the British Secret Service, Bond is put on the case in an ordeal that will not only test his loyalty to M but also may cost Bond much more than he could anticipate.

See the trailer, featurettes, clips, interviews and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX

Genre: Spy Action

Rating: PG-13 (for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking)

The Imposter

(Indomina) Frederic Bourdin, Carey Gibson, Beverly Dollarhide, Charlie Parker. When a young 13-year-old San Antonio boy disappears without a trace, his family is overjoyed to discover him alive and well and living in southern Spain. At first all seems well, but nagging inconsistencies lead the family to begin to ask questions – and they are wholly unprepared for the answers they receive.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Documentary

Rating: R (for language)

Liberal Arts

(IFC) Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney. A teacher at a big city university returns to his alma mater when his mentor asks him to speak at his retirement dinner. He gets immersed in the poetry readings, seminars and dining halls of campus but is unprepared for a precocious sophomore whose zest for life and sense of wonder awaken new feelings of possibility and romance in him.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including references, mature thematic material and some teen drinking)

Simon and the Oaks

(Film Arcade) Bill Skarsgaard, Helen Sjoholm, Jan Josef Liefers, Stefan Godicke. The scion of a working class family, an intellectually gifted boy, persuades his reluctant father to allow him to attend a prestigious boarding school. Once there he befriends a Jewish family whose atmosphere of music and culture whose son, yearning to do something with his hands, learns to build boats with his friend’s father. As World War II approaches, the two families will slowly merge in an effort to protect one another and make it through the war in Sweden.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: November 2012


November 2012Every 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 (Distributor/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. SKYFALL (1.0)
2. LIFE OF PI (1.3)
3. FLIGHT (1.4)
4. LINCOLN (1.5)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1.0)
TIE. CHASING ICE (1.0)
3. THE BAY (1.3)
TIE. CALIFORNIA SOLO (1.3)
TIE. HIGH GROUND (1.3)

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

NOVEMBER 2, 2012

A LATE QUARTER (EntertainmentOne) Genre: Drama. When a member of a renowned string quartet receives grave news, the groups fragile dynamic threatens to explode prior to their 25th Anniversary Concert. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The amazing cast includes Christopher Walken, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener.
A LIAR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Brainstorm) Genre: Animated Feature. The late Graham Chapman of Monty Python reads his life story set to animation created by 14 different animators. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 The closest thing we’ll ever get to a final Monty Python film.
A MAN’S STORY (Trinity) Genre: Documentary. The story of Ozwald Boateng, one of the UK’s most innovative and influential clothing designers of the past 20 years who struggles to balance his family life and career. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.8 Once again, fashion documentaries really don’t float my boat much.
THE BAY (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Horror. A quiet Maryland bayside town undergoes a metamorphosis when insidious parasites invade the bodies and the minds of the town’s residents. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 The latest from Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson looks to be maybe the most terrifying film of the year.
BONES BRIGADE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The story of skateboarders Tony Hawk, Stevie Caballero and Stacy Peralta whose amazing exploits revolutionized the sport in the 1980s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.7 Interesting from a historical perspective but only if you’re into the lifestyle.
CAFE DE FLORE (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Two people – one in 1960s Paris the other in modern day Montreal – are connected through time in profound and mysterious ways. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles on Nov. 9). RATING: 2.9 Looks kinda trippy.
THE DETAILS (Radius) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man goes to war with a pack of raccoons that have invaded his yard. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks full of genuine weirdness and human frailty all in one delightful crap sandwich.
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS (Self-Released) Genre: Drama. A troubled teenager in 1980s New York City dreams of reuniting with her father in Guyana. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 A compelling subject but a curiously passionless trailer.
FLIGHT (Paramount) Genre: Drama. A pilot hailed as a hero for saving a passenger jet from certain holocaust is suddenly viewed differently once he’s put under the media microscope. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 The return of director Robert Zemeckis to live-action features is marked by an outstanding cast including Denzel Washington.
HIGH GROUND (Red Flag) Genre: Documentary. Eleven veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan aided by veteran mountain climbers make an ascent up one of the highest mountains in the Himalayas (Mount Lobuche) in order to find some healing from their ordeals. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.3 How many documentaries about war are actually about healing? This is a must-see.
JACK AND DIANE (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. Two young women hook up in New York and find a deep, fulfilling relationship but when it threatens to break up it triggers terrifying changes in one of their bodies. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 It looks kind of out there but in a good way.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Universal) Genre: Martial Arts. A shipment of gold in 19th Century China ignites a long-simmering clan war with a blacksmith who makes incredible weapons of war caught in the middle. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 The directing debut of RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s (who also produced) Kill Bill.
MIAMI CONNECTION (Drafthouse) Genre: Martial Arts. Florida, circa 1987, is controlled by vicious motorcycle ninja gangs who incur the ire of martial arts rock band, determined to take back the Sunshine State for the people. Release Strategy: (New York City; opens in Los Angeles Nov. 9). RATING: 2.2 Exceedingly retro and campy; will either be serious fun or seriously annoying.
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Weinstein) Genre: Dramedy. A somewhat addlepated rocker who is estranged from his father returns to New York for his dad’s funeral and decides to take on his father’s crusade to find the man who humiliated him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Sean Penn is the only reason you need to go see this one.
VAMPS (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror Comedy. Two single party girls who happen to be vampires must choose between love and eternal life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 From director Amy Heckerling, stars her clueless star Alicia Silverstone, Kristin Ritter and Sigourney Weaver among others but trailer looks a bit cutesy-pie
WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. An arcade videogame villain decides he wants to be a good guy and leaves his game to find another that will accept his inner hero. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.7 A definite must-see for anyone who loves classic arcade videogames.

NOVEMBER 6, 2012

FIRE WITH FIRE (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A firefighter, in witness protection for testifying against the mob after witnessing a murder, must go into places he couldn’t have imagined to protect those he cares about when his identity is compromised. Release Strategy: On Demand. RATING: 2.8 Josh Duhamel and Bruce Willis make an intriguing pair.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012

A ROYAL AFFAIR (Magnolia) Genre: Romance. The true story of a scandalous love triangle in the 18th Century between a German Doctor, the Queen of Denmark and her deranged king. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A florid historical epic that might well be more interesting than the trailer suggests.
CHRISTMAS IN COMPTON (Barnholtz) Genre: Comedy. When the son of a beloved Christmas tree lot owner tries to make some improvements and jeopardizes the business, a miracle will be needed to make things right – the kind of miracle only found in Compton. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks a little corny but with an extra heaping helping of heart.
CITADEL (Cinedigm/Flatiron) Genre: Horror. An agoraphobic dad raising his daughter alone tries to protect her from an invading gang of mysterious hooded thugs hell bent on kidnapping her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 The trailer is legitimately frightening; got raves at SXSW this year.
THE COMEDY (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. An aging Brooklyn hipster finds himself getting restless with his life and yearns to move into something more meaningful. Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Featuring Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job, looks decidedly more cerebral and artsy than what they’re known for.
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Well Go USA) Genre: Drama. A womanizer must choose between the sensuous socialite and the chaste humanitarian he loves Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A sumptuous new version of the classic French novel, transplanted to 1930s Shanghai.
IN THEIR SKIN (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. A friendly evening among friends turns into a terrifying struggle to survive when one of the men, obsessed with perfection, turns to violence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks twisted in a good way and a decent cast (albeit not household names) sweetens the pot.
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) Genre: Biographical Drama. America’s 16th President leads his country through the bloodiest war in its history. Release Strategy: Limited (Opening Wide November 15). RATING: 1.5 The latest from director Steven Spielberg takes on Daniel Day-Lewis as the Great Emancipator; might be an Oscar contender.
NATURE CALLS (Magnet) Genre: Comedy. A pair of brothers become at odds over a group of boys in the elder brother’s scouting troop. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Even with Patton Oswalt, this looks mind-numbing.
SKYFALL (MGM/Columbia) Genre: Spy Action Thriller. Indiscretions in the past of M, the starchy head of MI-6 will lead the agency to come under attack by a ruthless madman whom even James Bond cannot stop. Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX opening Nov. 8). RATING: 1.0 The most successful franchise in cinematic history returns after a brief leave of absence with one of the most anticipated films in the 50 year history of the Bond films.
STARLET (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A young woman who lives to get high befriends an elderly woman in the San Fernando Valley after a confrontation at a yard sale. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.2 The trailer is a pretty sweet one with plenty of L.A. heart.

NOVEMBER 13, 2012

JAB TAK HAI JAAN (Yash Raj) Genre: Bollywood. A former soldier relocated to London is living a double life. When his two lives collide he must choose between them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest from legendary Bollywood director Yash Chopra.

NOVEMBER 14, 2012

BUFFALO GIRLS (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Two eight-year-old girls in rural Thailand become professional Muay Thai fighters to provide for their families. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles Dec. 7). RATING: 3.1 This practice isn’t uncommon; a moving look at what two little girls will go through to help their families escape abject poverty.
THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A look at the laws created in the wake of the Six Days War that relegate the West Bank and Gaza Strip as occupied territories and how those laws are used to promulgate injustice even today. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 A very powerful examination of a situation that modern Israeli’s grapple with, and with the soul of a nation at stake.

NOVEMBER 15, 2012

BARRYMORE (Image) Genre: Drama. As he rehearses a play that must be a do-or-die comeback performance, legendary stage actor John Barrymore looks back at the events of his storied life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 With Oscar winner Christopher Plummer in the title role this could be one for the ages.

NOVEMBER 16, 2012

ANNA KARENINA (Focus) Genre: Drama. A Russian woman of the upper class, married to a member of the aristocracy, falls in love with a common soldier. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Based on the Leo Tolstoy classic and from the director and actress of Pride and Prejudice.
CHASING ICE (National Geographic) Genre: Documentary. A heroic National Geographic photographer captures the erosion of the Arctic Ice in an effort to move the debate from whether there is climate change to what to do about it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 A movie that should be shown to everyone – policy makers, citizens – we are all affected.
FUNERAL KINGS (Freestyle) Genre: Comedy. A couple of irresponsible teenage altar boys open a locked trunk and get far more than they bargained for. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.9 Irreverent and foul-mouthed – might well give you another reason to despise certain teens.
HITLER’S CHILDREN (Film Movement) Genre: Documentary. The descendents of the leadership of the Nazi party struggle today with the legacy of their family shame. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 Riveting stuff; how does one live down that sort of family name?
MEA MAXIMA CULPA: SILENCE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD (HBO) Genre: Documentary. Four courageous young men try to get justice for the systematic abuse of children by priests of the Catholic Church. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 This may very well be the Church’s lowest moment.
PRICE CHECK (IFC) Genre: Comedy. A suburban man working for a supermarket chain gets a new boss whose attraction to him turns his life upside down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 I’m always up for watching Parker Posey go ballistic.
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2 (Summit) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. The series concludes with the Cullens battling the Morituri for their very survival. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.9 The last two films in the series have been dreadful; no reason to expect a change here.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012

LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) Genre: Adventure. A young man survives a disaster at sea and forms an unlikely bond with the other sole survivor – an irritable Bengal tiger. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.3 Director Ang Lee looks like he’s crafted yet another beautifully shot masterpiece.
RED DAWN (Film District) Genre: Action. When the Chinese invade the United States, a small group of teenage boys and girls fight as an American resistance . Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 I’m not sure why this movie needed to be remade but it has been sitting on the shelf for a very long time.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Jack Frost, Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman stand united to protect the children of the world against an evil nightmare spirit named Pitch. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.1 Although I love the concept and think the animation is crackerjack, I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach for this one.
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.

NOVEMBER 23, 2012

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. The story of five teenagers wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a woman in central park whose lives were irrevocably changed and the fight to see justice – albeit delayed – done. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A feature length documentary by PBS mainstay Ken Burns.
HITCHCOCK (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of how the greatest director of his time put up his own personal funds to make a picture that nobody thought he should make – a little film called Psycho. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock makes me think this movie is going to gain a little bit of attention come Oscar time.
RUST & BONE (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. A whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrific accident is nursed back to health – physically and spiritually – by a struggling single father. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks absolutely enthralling and emotionally powerful; Marion Cotillard may need room on her mantle for another Oscar.

NOVEMBER 28, 2012

BEWARE OF MR. BAKER (SnagFilms/Insurgent) Genre: Music Documentary. Legendary rock drummer Ginger Baker of Cream remembers his success, his excess and his inner wild child. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A fascinating look at one of rock and roll’s most difficult – and talented – musicians ever.

NOVEMBER 30, 2012

CALIFORNIA SOLO (Strand) Genre: Dramedy. A former Britpop artist turned organic farmer and podcaster faces deportation and must face past demons with his estranged ex-wife and daughter to stay in the U.S. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles.. RATING: 1.3 Looks really, really good and Robert Carlyle is at the top of his game here.
THE COLLECTION (LD Entertainment) Genre: Horror. When a wealthy man’s daughter is kidnapped by a sadistic serial killer and put in a maze of deadly traps and torture, he hires mercenaries who in turn enlist the only man to escape the maze who returns – reluctantly. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Looks kind of like a Saw rip-off – and with the writers of the last four films of that series in charge of this film it’s not surprising.
DRAGON (Radius) Genre: Martial Arts. When a village craftsman saves a shopkeeper from notorious gangsters, the village detective suspects he may be more than who he seems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Not many martial arts films get a showing at Cannes – this one earned it.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) Genre: Crime Comedy. A hit man is called in to investigate the robbery of a mob-protected poker game. Release Strategy: Limited.. RATING: 2.0 Pretty nifty cast includes Brad PItt, Sam Rockwell, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins and Ray Liotta.
KING KELLY (See Think) Genre: Comedy. An aspiring Internet star does webcam stripteases and surfs social networking sites. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 Recorded entirely on phone cams, shows a media-obsessed self-absorbed youth culture. Rawr.
TALAASH (Reliance Big Pictures) Genre: Thriller. A cop investigating the drowning death of a popular film star is embroiled with a housewife and a prostitute in a tangled web. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks like it could hang with the best of the Chinese cop dramas.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (Magnolia) Genre: Science Fiction. After waking up to find his family slaughtered, a family man discovers that he may have more to do with the Universal Soldiers who he believes were involved than he could have thought. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 The last few direct-to-video films in this franchise have been downright awful but this one looks at least somewhat better.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Flight, The Man With the Iron Fists, Miami Connection, This Must Be the Place, Wreck-It Ralph, Skyfall, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Red Dawn, Rise of the Guardians, The Silver Lining Playbook, Killing Them Softly

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!

2012 Preview


The box office slide that began in 2010 continued in 2011, much to the chagrin of exhibitors and studios alike. With increasing home viewing options coming from Video On-Demand, streaming from services such as Netflix, Hulu and Epix as well as Blu-Ray and DVD viewing (although that market is shrinking as well as movies follow the lead of the music industry and move to an increasingly digital format), theaters were unable to compete with home viewing in a strained economic environment. High ticket prices and upcharges for 3D and IMAX viewing kept audiences away towards more economical formats; it costs less for one month of unlimited streaming on Netflix than it does for a single non-matinee ticket at the average first-run theater. When your audience is pinching pennies, it doesn’t make sense to make your product less affordable.

There are no signs that this particular downturn is going to be changing anytime soon. 2011 had been a very anticipated year for blockbusters, but for the most part the numbers were down all around. While Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 sent the franchise out with a bang (and with arguably the best film in the series), The Help made a bundle unexpectedly while Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger continued Marvel’s winning ways at the box office. While there are some movies that are very much on everyone’s radar (The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises come to mind), the schedule once again looks crowded as would-be franchise-starters jockey for position with established names.

Don’t weep too much for the studios however; they’ll be fine as licensing agreements, cable and broadcast television rights, DVD and Blu-Ray sales and fees from streaming services and video on-demand will continue to augment their box office receipts. If things were that bad for the studios, you wouldn’t see nearly as many nine figure budgets being approved.

Once again Cinema365 will be in the thick of the fray, reviewing as many new releases as we can get to (that make it to the Orlando market anyway) and as many DVD reviews that we can fit in between. We’ll continue to be a presence at the Florida Film Festival this year, as well as a voice for independent films and non-major releases while at the same time reviewing major films without stooping to leveling zingers at the expense of fair and impartial information for readers to make informed decisions about what movies they want to spend two hours of their lives seeing, either at home or at the multiplex.

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 don’t be surprised if 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. Also keep an eye out for Four-Warned, our monthly series that details all the movies getting theatrical releases somewhere in the country – at least, those that we are aware of. 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.

So enough of the sizzle; it’s time for some steak. Dig in to our 2012 Preview and we at Cinema365 sincerely hope you find it a satisfying meal. Enjoy!

JANUARY

Usually the first month of any new year is mostly the province of the Holiday movies, remaining strong in the theaters, plus the debuts of a one or two Oscar hopefuls that opened in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the year to qualify for an Academy Award nomination. Generally the rest are those films exiled to the gulag that is January, movies that have shifted release dates and that the studios have little confidence in. Once in awhile, there are movies that come out that are critically acclaimed or box office winners or both. While there is a new war film from George Lucas on the schedule as well as what looks to be an Oscar contender for Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, the rest don’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.

GOLD MEDAL

RED TAILS

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Bryan Cranston, Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Cliff Smith, Lee Tergesen, Ne-Yo
STORY: Based on the inspirational true story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American pilots, take on the most dangerous missions in the European theater of World War II as well as the prejudices of their own commanders.
PROSPECTS: Some of the action sequences look astonishing and with George Lucas producing you know that this is going to look good if nothing else.
OBSTACLES: Produced by George Lucas. That alone would be enough to have audiences show up in droves a decade ago, but after the debacle of his last three Star Wars films, Lucas doesn’t have the cachet he once had.
FACTOID: Cuba Gooding Jr. also had a role in the acclaimed TV movie The Tuskegee Airmen.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

CONTRABAND

RELEASE DATE: January 13, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, Caleb Landry Jones, Lukas Haas, Diego Luna, J.K. Simmons
STORY: Once a smuggler, a family man is forced back into the life when his brother-in-law botches a delivery and now in order to save the life of his brother-in-law and of his own family, the contraband runner must rely on his old crew and his best instincts to get him through the ordeal or else his family may wind up paying the price.
PROSPECTS: A good-looking little action adventure film that benefits from a good trailer, positive buzz and little competition in its Friday the 13th slot.
OBSTACLES: Wahlberg has blown hot and cold as a lead in terms of box office; still waiting for that break-out role to take him to the next level and this likely isn’t it.
FACTOID: Director Baltasar Kormakur, although raised in Iceland (and has directed such films as 101 Reykjavik) is the son of the Spanish painter Baltasar Samper.

UNDERWORLD AWAKENING

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2012
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance, Sandrine Holt, Kris Holden-Ried, Marvin Duerkholz
STORY: Selene, the vampire-warrior heroine of the first three Underworld films, has been captured and placed into suspended animation by humans who have discovered the existence of both vampire and Lycan. When she is awakened, she finds the world has changed almost completely – and a new creature menaces human, vampire and Lycan alike.
PROSPECTS: Beckinsale in skin-tight leather is still a sight that makes fanboys drool. While the series hasn’t been the most spectacularly successful vampire series ever, it’s lack of competition and name recognition should be enough to keep it profitable..
OBSTACLES: Since the first movie, the series hasn’t had a blockbuster hit and given the economic situation and the fact that theater attendance is in a severe decline, this isn’t likely to break out either.
FACTOID: The first film in the series to be filmed in 3D.

UNDERDOG

THE DIVIDE

RELEASE DATE: January 13, 2012
STUDIO: Anchor Bay
STARRING: Michael Biehn, Milo Ventimiglia, Courtney B. Vance, Lauren German, Ivan Gonzalez, Michael Eklund, Abbey Thickson, Ashton Holmes
STORY: Nine residents of a New York highrise escape the effects of a nuclear holocaust by hiding out in the bunker-like basement of their building but as the food and water supply dwindles, their most dangerous foes might be each other.
PROSPECTS: An awesome trailer, terrific premise and good word-of-mouth make this a possible breakout hit.
OBSTACLES: Only receiving limited release by Relativity’s direct-to-video arm.
FACTOID: Filming was delayed by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which prevented some of the cast from travelling to the United States from Europe.

ALSO RUNNING

January 6, 2012

THE DEVIL INSIDE (Paramount) is about the daughter of a mother who murdered three people. The daughter goes to visit her mother in an Italian insane asylum to discover whether her mom is insane or demonically possessed. Of course, the answer should be obvious…but the exorcism that is to be performed leads to some shocking revelations.

January 13, 2012

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D (Disney) follows in the footsteps of Disney’s 3D re-release of The Lion King earlier this year which was one of the more successful releases of any studio film in terms of profit. You know that the hits are going to just keep on coming. JOYFUL NOISE (Warner Brothers) stars Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton as rival songbirds in church choir whose daughter and grandson respectively fall in love, further fanning the flames of a rivalry which threatens to derail their choir’s shot at winning the Joyful Noise Gospel Competition.

January 20, 2012

In HAYWIRE (Relativity) when a covert ops specialist is betrayed during a routine mission, she will stop at nothing to find out why she was set up – and who stabbed her in the back. MMA superstar Gina Carano makes her film debut alongside Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Michael Douglas.

January 27, 2012

THE GREY (Open Road) stars Liam Neeson as the survivor of a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness who must lead fellow oil roughnecks to safety. This is complicated by a snowstorm as well as a pack of hungry rogue wolves. MAN ON THE LEDGE (Summit) begins with a man standing out on the ledge of a New York highrise. Is he suicidal, or a diversion for a crime? Chances are, it’s neither one; Sam Worthington headlines. ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate) is potentially a new franchise, this one starring Katherine Heigl as Janet Evanovich’s heroine Stephanie Plum. In it, she is a Jersey girl driven by desperation to take a job at her cousin’s bail bond business. Her first job is to bring a louse who dumped her in high school which ordinarily would bring her great pleasure, but the case isn’t as cut and dried as it looks – and there’s a lot or complications of the life-threatening kind involved.

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 GREEN HORNET (Columbia) Budget: $120 Million. Domestic Gross: $98.8M Total: $227.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE DILEMMA (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $48.5M Total: $69.7M Verdict: Flop.
THE RITE (New Line) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $33.1M Total: $96.1M Verdict: Broke Even.
RABBIT HOLE (Lionsgate) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $2.1M Total: $3.4M Verdict: Flop.
SEASON OF THE WITCH (Relativity) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $24.8M Total: $91.6M Verdict: Profitable.
NO STRINGS ATTACHED (Paramount) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $70.7M Total: $147.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE COMPANY MEN (Weinstein) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $4.4M Total: $4.9M Verdict: Flop.
THE MECHANIC (CBS) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $29.1M Total: $51.1 Verdict: Flop.

FEBRUARY

Some of the year’s anticipated releases begin to trickle out as Valentine’s Day and the President’s Day long weekend give Hollywood a wake-up call from winter doldrums. This year there is a theme of second chances; a supernatural comic book hero makes a big budget return, Daniel Radcliffe goes Victorian in a spooky English movie, a couple get a second chance at love and the makers of Journey to the Center of the Earth take another crack at a Jules Verne classic, among other releases.

GOLD MEDAL

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Nicolas Cage, Ciaran Hinds, Fergus Riordan, Violante Placido, Idris Elba, Johnny Whitworth, Christopher Lambert
STORY: Stunt cyclist Johnny Blaze is hiding out in Eastern Europe, trying to deal with the curse of the Ghost Rider by avoiding it. However when a secret sect of the Church approaches him to save a young boy from the clutches of the devil, Blaze must put everything on the line to save the boy – including his immortal soul.
PROSPECTS: The competition is pretty weak this month and if the story is halfway decent the movie’s got a chance. Also, fan favorites Neveldine and Taylor are directing, so that’s definitely a step in the right direction.
OBSTACLES: The first Ghost Rider did decent business but got a critical whacking and fan expectation has been pretty low, although Columbia is doing its best to create a buzz.
FACTOID: Eva Mendes declined to reprise her role for the film.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

THE VOW

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2012
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams, Sam Neill, Scott Speedman, Jessica Lange, Dillon Casey, Lucas Bryant, Kristina Pesic
STORY: A newlywed couple is involved in a serious car accident, sending the wife into a coma. When she awakens, her short-term memory is gone to the time when she was with an ex-boyfriend and she doesn’t recognize her husband at all. He will have to get her to fall in love with him all over again or else he’ll lose her forever
PROSPECTS: Definitely a tearjerker and like many of the best tearjerkers is based on a true story. This will be one a lot of women are going to want their men to take them to on Valentine’s Day and men, be prepared to be compared unfavorably to this guy.
OBSTACLES: Neither Tatum nor McAdams has hit a box office home run yet. This is definitely a big time date movie and will not bring in a lot of single men or teens into the theater.
FACTOID: Many of the handbags in the movie were designed by Imperfect Impudence, a Canadian custom handbag designer.

THIS MEANS WAR

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Angela Bassett, Til Schweiger, Abigail Spencer, David Koechner, Jenny Slate
STORY: Two deadly spies for the CIA who are partners and also best friends pull out all the stops when they discover that they are both in love with the same woman, who is stringing the both of them along. Fur is gonna fly, people!
PROSPECTS: The trailer reminded me a little bit of the old Sergio Aragones Spy vs. Spy cartoons in Mad magazine. A very attractive cast of up-and-coming young hunks as well as the ever-gorgeous Witherspoon equals some good reason to go to the theater if you’re into ogling beautiful people.
OBSTACLES: Sounds a bit like Salt, Knight and Day and Mr. and Mrs. Jones and the track record for these films is uneven, so it’s definitely a crap shoot.
FACTOID: Both Pine and Hardy have appeared in Star Trek films; Hardy was Shinzon in the last Next Generation film Star Trek: Nemesis and Pine played the young Captain Kirk in the reboot.

UNDERDOG

ACT OF VALOR

RELEASE DATE: February 24, 2012
STUDIO: Relativity
STARRING: Active Duty Navy SEALs, Roselyn Sanchez, Alex Veadov, Jason Cottle, Nestor Serrano, Timothy Gibbs, Carla Jimenez
STORY: A team of Navy SEALs rescues a kidnapped CIA operative which leads to the uncovering of a massive global terrorist plot. With each mission the SEALs uncover more intelligence that leads them to realize that a deadly attack on the United States is imminent.
PROSPECTS: The conceit here is that the movie uses actual active duty SEALs performing tasks with equipment they use daily. Much of the script is taken from actual SEAL missions.
OBSTACLES: Could be more gimmick than entertainment, or a gigantic recruiting video for the Navy.
FACTOID: Because they are on active duty, none of the names of the actual SEALs could be used in the end credits.

ALSO RUNNING

February 3, 2012

BIG MIRACLE (Universal) is based on the true story of three whales trapped by ice in Alaska, while a small town works feverishly to free them; they eventually enlist the aid of the U.S. Navy and when that proves ineffective, the Soviet Navy. Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski star. CHRONICLE (20th Century Fox) is a found footage film chronicling three high school students who develop super powers. Being teenagers, they also run amuck and not in a good way. Sounds like a good movie but the found footage thing should have been ditched. In THE WOMAN IN BLACK (CBS) a 19th century lawyer goes to an isolated home to sort out a deceased client’s affairs. Instead, he runs into a supernatural experience that is far more sinister than he could have imagined. Daniel Radcliffe plays the lawyer. W.E. (Weinstein) has a modern woman obsessed with the romance between Wallis Simpson and King Edward VII of England, which led to the King’s abdication. The further research she does leads her to discover that their love wasn’t necessarily as idyllic as she always believed. Pop star Madonna directed, taking a page from her ex-husband Guy Ritchie.

February 10, 2012

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) continues the 3D adventures of the family which went to the center of the earth but now is off to plunder another one of Jules Verne’s books – Mysterious Island. Brendan Fraser is gone and in his place is Dwayne Johnson as Josh Hutcherson’s new stepdad, and Michael Caine as his grandfather. SAFE HOUSE (Universal) stars Ryan Reynolds as a safe house “housekeeper” who yearns to be a field agent for the CIA whose world turns upside down when the top of the CIA’s most wanted list – an former agent gone rogue played by Denzel Washington – is brought to the safe house and promptly attacked; now on the run, the two must figure out who wants them dead and more importantly, how to stay alive long enough to take the bad guys down. STAR WARS: EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D (20th Century Fox) leads me to ask the question nobody has the guts to ask – do we really need to see Jar Jar Binks in 3D? UNDEFEATED (Weinstein) is a documentary that follows the 2009 Manassas High School football team as they go from perennial losers to poised on the brink of winning the school’s first playoff game in their 110 year history. Chances are this will end up getting a limited release.

February 17, 2012

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY (Disney) is the latest from the Oscar winning animation company Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away) and is based on the beloved children’s book series The Borrowers. If I’m not mistaken, this is the first Studio Ghibli film to get a wide release in this country.

February 24, 2012

GONE (Summit) is a thriller starring Amanda Seyfried as a young woman who had escaped from a kidnapper the year before. She comes home to find her sister missing and becomes convinced that the same guy that took her now has her sister and means to kill her. When the police prove to be unsympathetic and worse still, unbelieving, she heads out to rescue her sister herself. TYLER PERRY’S GOOD DEEDS (Lionsgate) stars Perry as a businessman who has always lived the life that’s been expected of him. When he encounters a single mom who works as a cleaning lady in his building, he is moved to do something to help her which ignites a different kind of passion in him – to lead the life he chooses to. In WANDERLUST (Universal) a materialistic New York City couple are forced to move to the South when the husband loses his job. The two wind up on a commune which jolts them out of their complacency, perhaps too far from their complacency. Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston star.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SANCTUM (Universal) Budget: $30 Million. Domestic Gross: $23.2M Total: $108.6M Verdict: Hit.
DRIVE ANGRY 3D (Summit) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $10.7M Total: $28.9M Verdict: Probably lost money.
I AM NUMBER FOUR (DreamWorks) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $55.1M Total: $144.5M Verdict: Made Money.
GNOMEO AND JULIET (Disney) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $100.0M Total: $194.0M Verdict: Potentially a Hit.
JUST GO WITH IT (Columbia) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $103.0M Total: $215.0M Verdict: Profitable.
THE EAGLE (Focus) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $19.5M Total: $27.1M Verdict: Flop.
HALL PASS (New Line) Budget: $36M. Domestic Gross: $45.1M Total: $83.2M Verdict: Profitable.
THE ROOMMATE (Screen Gems) Budget: $16M. Domestic Gross: $37.3M Total: $40.5M Verdict: Profitable.

MARCH

Studios hope March and St. Paddy’s Day will bring them the luck of the Irish. Lionsgate hopes to raise their flagging fortune with a potential blockbuster franchise, while Disney is hoping Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars series will yield big money as Pixar goes live action. A sequel to the Clash of the Titans reboot, a new Dr. Seuss animated feature and an animated film from Aardman round out the months box office hopefuls.

GOLD MEDAL

THE HUNGER GAMES

RELEASE DATE: March 23, 2012
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland
STORY: In a dystopian corporate-controlled future, “tributes” from each of the twelve districts of the shattered United States fight one another until only one is left standing. Most of the “tributes” train all their lives for the Games but Katniss must rely on her instincts and the training of a former winner who is now a hopeless drunk to help her make it through, only to leave her faced with impossible choices.
PROSPECTS: This young adult series by author Suzanne Collins has a rabid Twilight-like following that may propel this film to those types of numbers. The anticipation for this movie is among the highest for any film in 2012, and that includes the fanboy favorites The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.
OBSTACLES: You have to wonder why a movie like this isn’t opening in the fall or the summer where it might get a much bigger box office; does the studio want to hedge its bets on a movie it doesn’t have faith in?
FACTOID: Hemsworth and Lawrence, natural blondes both, dyed their hair brown for the movie; Hutcherson, normally a brunette, dyed his hair blonde.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

JOHN CARTER

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2012
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe
STORY: A Civil War officer is inexplicably transported to the dying planet Barsoom where he becomes embroiled in a conflict there as well – and the survival of the planet rests in his hands alone.
PROSPECTS: Pixar’s first foray into live action has the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novel A Princess of Mars as it’s starting point. The trailer hints at some stunning visuals and polls for Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 list this among the top five.
OBSTACLES: Hopefully the writers left some of the dated hokum of the novel behind. Will audiences get behind 12-foot-tall blue-skinned Martians?
FACTOID: The property has been in development for 79 years, starting when the original rights were purchased by Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett with the intention of making an animated feature. Since then the rights have passed through nearly every studio in Hollywood, some more than once.

THE RAVEN

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2012
STUDIO: Relativity
STARRING: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Pam Ferris, Brendan Coyle, Kevin McNally, Dave Legeno
STORY: A string of murders in 19th Century Baltimore bear more than a passing resemblance to the works of struggling writer and pariah Edgar Allen Poe. A young detective joins forces with the writer to discover who is behind the bloody deeds.
PROSPECTS: A great concept and casting Cusack as Poe is absolutely inspired.
OBSTACLES: The movie has yet to really generate any kind of buzz which doesn’t bode well; Relativity’s track record to date is checkered.
FACTOID: Noomi Rapace and Jeremy Renner at one time both had offers to do this movie, but they declined to do other projects instead; Alice Eve and Luke Evans were eventually cast in the roles that had been offered.

DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX

RELEASE DATE: March 2, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Taylor Swift, Rob Riggle, Betty White, Jenny Slate, Sherry Lynn
STORY: A young boy out to win the heart of a girl he’s sweet on hears the story of the Lorax, a strange woodland creature who alone can grant him the very thing that he needs to get the girl.
PROSPECTS: From the studio that brought Despicable Me to life comes this mighty fine-looking version of a beloved Dr. Seuss tale.
OBSTACLES: As a whole the animated feature market has become saturated and the numbers have as a result dipped a bit. The competition for family films is pretty stiff at this point and modern kids are less savvy about Dr. Seuss than they might be about, say, SpongeBob.
FACTOID: The characters of Ted and Audrey are named for Dr. Seuss and his widow Audrey.

WRATH OF THE TITANS

RELEASE DATE: March 30, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Ralph Fiennes, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Danny Huston, Lily James
STORY: Perseus gets caught in the middle of a war between the Gods and the Titans that is being engineered by Hades. The mortal must rescue Zeus from Hades’ underworld for the Gods to survive the onslaught.
PROSPECTS: The trailer looks much better than the first movie; Worthington is rapidly becoming a bona fide star.
OBSTACLES: The first movie was slammed for its inferior 3D look and rumor has it that the producers are once again using a post-conversion process rather than going the more expensive rote of filming in 3D.
FACTOID: Alexa Davalos was unable to return to the role of Andromeda due to scheduling conflicts; Rosamund Pike took over the part instead.

UNDERDOG

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2012
STUDIO: CBS
STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked, Rachael Sterling, Catherine Steadman, Tom Mison, Pippa Andre
STORY: A zealous Yemeni sheikh wants to bring fly-fishing to the desert and enlists the help of a skeptical British fisheries expert who doesn’t think it can be done. When an ambitious press secretary latches onto the story and brings pressure to bear on the expert to take a crack at it, he will soon discover a world of possibilities in the impossible.
PROSPECTS: Director Lasse Hallstrom is one of the most consistently excellent directors of our time. The movie got buzz at the Toronto Film Festival and the trailer shows a quirky, gentle sense of humor, a nice antidote to the loud over-the-top comedies that dominate the screen these days.
OBSTACLES: Hallstrom has never been much of a box office bonanza and the studio has yet to deliver a hit.
FACTOID: This is based on a novel of the same name by Paul Torday.

ALSO RUNNING

March 2, 2012

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount) stars hot up-and-comers Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the titular siblings, 15 years after the gingerbread house incident having now become heavily armed badass assassins of all things witchy. PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) is about a group of kids who take one last stab at high school immortality by throwing an epic party. The movie looks like it’s taking the “found footage” route, sort of like Porky’s on digital video. Yipes. TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE (Magnet) is the latest project from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim, auteurs of the Adult Swim series “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”. Here they are given a billion bucks to make a movie and squander every last penny. Desperate to pay the money back to the pissed-off corporate thugs who invested it, the two hatch a scheme that is as irreverent as it is unlikely. Coming out in limited release only.

March 9, 2012

THE BULLY PROJECT (Weinstein) is a documentary that follows five families for an entire school year. The families range from those who have had children driven to suicide over bullying to those who have children in the family who have bullied other children. While it is listed as being scheduled for Wide release, Weinstein is notorious for changing their release plans and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this wind up coming out in limited release. PLAYING THE FIELD (FilmDistrict) stars Gerard Butler as a former professional soccer player who couldn’t resist temptation which prematurely ended his career. Now he is stuck coaching his son’s soccer team, but is sorely tempted by the restless and sometimes aggressively needy soccer moms of his players. JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME (Paramount) is the latest comedy from the Duplass brothers, this time starring Jason Segel as a man drifting through life looking for signs from the universe to help him find his path. Boy is he surprised when the universe actually answers. SILENT HOUSE (Open Road) is a remake of a Spanish horror film in which a young woman is locked in a lake house she and her father are renovating. She begins to panic as she experiences unexplainable events that drive her further and further past the brink of terror. THINK LIKE A MAN (Screen Gems) references the Steve Harvey bestselling book in which he instructs women how to figure out what men are thinking. Four women buy the book and use it against the men who are pursuing them. Feeling betrayed by one of their own, the men get together to conspire to use the insider information against the women and teach them a lesson of their own.

March 16, 2012

21 JUMP STREET (Columbia) reboots the old Fox TV show as a comedy with new cops going back to school and one of them looks suspiciously like Jonah Hill. Those who want their 80s teen cop show fix on can look no further. BUTTER (Weinstein) covers one of the most competitive sports ever, one in which cutthroat tactics are the norm and whose history is littered with the carcasses of those who weren’t good enough. I’m referring of course to butter carving. Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner are among those going for the gold. CASA DE MI PADRE (Pantelion) is Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language film which depicts how an honest Mexican rancher gets sucked into a war with a drug lord. The movie is coming out in limited release. Also in limited release is DETACHMENT (Tribeca) which stars Adrien Brody as a substitute teacher who goes from school to school, rarely staying long enough to form any attachments. However, he comes to one school where he might truly make a difference. MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) is the first of two Snow White films this year; this one is directed by Tarsem Singh and stars Julia Roberts as the evil Queen and Lily Collins as Snow. From the way the trailer looks, they’re playing it for laughs.

March 23, 2012

A THOUSAND WORDS (Paramount) is about a fast-talking literary agent who pisses off a New Age guru and, perhaps, the universe as well and finds a bodhi tree growing in his back yard. Each word he speaks causes a leaf to fall. When the last leaf falls, so will the agent. Eddie Murphy stars.

March 30, 2012

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Columbia) is the latest animated feature from Aardman Studios (the mad geniuses behind Wallace and Gromit) about a group of bumbling pirates vying for the Pirate of the Year award. Looks rather droll. GOON (Magnet) is opening in limited release and stars Seann William Scott as a bartender plucked out of obscurity to be an enforcer with a minor league hockey team. Slap Shot much?.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SUCKER PUNCH (Warner Brothers) Budget: $82 Million. Domestic Gross: $36.4M Total: $89.8M Verdict: Flop.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (Columbia) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $83.6M Total: $211.8M Verdict: Hit.
RANGO (Paramount) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $123.3M Total: $245.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
JANE EYRE (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $11.2M Total: $31.5M Verdict: Probably Made Money.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (Universal) Budget: $50.2M. Domestic Gross: $62.5M Total: $127.9 Verdict: Made Money.
MARS NEEDS MOMS (Disney) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $21.4M Total: $39.0 Verdict: Major Flop.
LIMITLESS (Relativity) Budget: $27M. Domestic Gross: $79.3M Total: $161.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $58.0M Total: $75.0M Verdict: Lost Money.

APRIL

Spring break presages the summer and normally there are a few teases for the summer blockbuster season but this April looks unusually quiet. The American Pie franchise gets one last hurrah (unless it does big box office, then you can expect a whole lot of hurrahs), a horror spoof series gets a new installment, an oft-delayed Josh Whedon horror flick finds a home and yet another Nicholas Sparks novel gets a screen treatment.

GOLD MEDAL

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT

RELEASE DATE: April 27, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Rhys Ifans, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Mimi Kennedy, David Paymer, Brian Posehn, Dakota Johnson
STORY: A newly engaged couple is forced to put off their wedding when the bride gets a job she always wanted out of town. As she becomes more successful in her career, the wedding continues to get postponed for one reason and another.
PROSPECTS: Yes, it’s Judd Apatow and Jason Segel together again. The trailer looks hysterical and this could very well be the funniest Apatow film of the past few years.
OBSTACLES: Apatow’s kind of fallen off of his pedestal of late. Comedies in general have taken a bit of a bump at the box office.
FACTOID: Director Nicholas Stoller previously worked with Segel and Apatow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

AMERICAN REUNION

RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jason Biggs, Alyson Hannigan, Chris Klein, Natasha Lyonne, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott, Mena Suvari, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jennifer Coolidge, Eugene Levy
STORY: The group from East Great Falls High returns for a high school reunion, giving them a chance to reconnect, reminisce and perhaps right the things in their lives that have gone wrong as the kids from American Pie have all grown up. But is the universe ready for…Stiffler’s mom and Jim’s dad together?
PROSPECTS: This is how they used to do sex comedies and the nostalgia market is bigger than ever. Reuniting the original cast will certainly rekindle the old magic.
OBSTACLES: The original is more than a decade removed and the franchise has been direct-to-video for quite awhile.
FACTOID: The movie filmed in the Atlanta area, standing in for Michigan.

SCARY MOVIE 5

RELEASE DATE: April 20, 2012
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Anna Faris, Regina Hall, Anthony Anderson (all rumored)
STORY: Well, ummm…
PROSPECTS: It’s been a very successful series thus far.
OBSTACLES: The movie’s cast hasn’t even been announced yet. It’s a good bet that the movie will be delayed if it comes out at all.
FACTOID: This is the fifth movie in the horror spoof franchise. Hey, there really isn’t much out there about it…

UNDERDOG

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS

RELEASE DATE: April 13, 2012
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Amy Acker, Jodelle Ferland
STORY: A group of friends go for a weekend at a remote cabin in an old forest, but get far more than they bargained for.
PROSPECTS: This is a Joss Whedon film and that’s enough to get my butt into a seat.
OBSTACLES: It’s been sitting on a shelf for quite awhile due to the bankruptcy issues at MGM. The premise seems awfully familiar.
FACTOID: This is one of the last movies developed by MGM as an independent studio; since the movie was completed MGM filed for bankruptcy and was consequently bought by Spyglass Entertainment.

ALSO RUNNING

April 6, 2012

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (Summit) stars future Superman Henry Cavill and Bruce Willis; Cavill is a young man whose family is kidnapped in Spain. He has only a few short hours to discover what their disappearance has to do with his father’s secrets. TITANIC 3D (Paramount) seeks to add a bit more to James Cameron’s bank account as his blockbuster is given the 3D conversion treatment.

April 13, 2012

BULLET TO THE HEAD (Warner Brothers), based on a graphic novel, stars Sylvester Stallone in a gritty story of a professional assassin and a New York City cop who make a pact to bring down the killers of their respective partners. MOVIE 43 (Relativity) is a series of short films on a variety of subjects with an all-star cast. We’ll try to be a little more vague next time. THE THREE STOOGES (20th Century Fox) stars Chris Diamantopoulos, Will Sasso and Sean Hayes as the titular trio in a new updated adventure set in modern times and directed by the Farrelly Brothers. This could be a big mistake, folks. What’s next, Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter as Laurel and Hardy?

April 20, 2012

CHIMPANZEE (DisneyNature) is this year’s Earth Day Disney nature film. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) stars Jennifer Lawrence who moves into a new house with her mom only to discover that the house next door was the site of a double murder; and that the only survivor of the bloody night is her new friend. THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Brothers) is the newest screen version of a Nicholas Sparks novel and stars Zac Efron as a soldier on his third tour of Iraq whose life is saved when he wanders away from his platoon to pick up a photo of a woman he’s never seen before. When his tour is over, he determines to find out who the woman is. MS ONE: MAXIMUM SECURITY (FilmDistrict) is a sci-fi tale about a wrongly convicted prisoner who is offered a pardon if he can rescue the president’s daughter from a high-tech space prison that has been taken over by the violent inmates. Escape from New York much? SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Focus) is a comedy about two people who find each other just as the world is about to end. Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in what could probably not be the feel-good comedy of the year. THE WETTEST COUNTY (Weinstein) is the true story of the Bondurant brothers, bootleggers who made it big during prohibition. The cast is pretty respectable, including Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hardy and Mia Wasikowska.

April 27, 2012

SAFE (Lionsgate) stars Jason Statham as a broken man who witnesses members of the Russian mafia, who were responsible for the murder of his family, chasing a young Chinese girl and decides that he will protect her as he couldn’t protect his family. Being a mixed martial arts champion doesn’t hurt either. HEADHUNTERS (Magnolia), opening in limited release, is a Swedish film about a corporate headhunter who determines to obtain a painting owned by a former mercenary.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

SCREAM 4 (Dimension) Budget: $40 Million. Domestic Gross: $38.2M Total: $97.1M Verdict: Made Money.
RIO (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $143.6M Total: $484.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SOURCE CODE (Summit) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $54.7M Total: $123.3M Verdict: Hit.
MEEK’S CUTOFF (Oscilloscope) Budget: $2M. Domestic Gross: $977,772 Total: $977,772 Verdict: Flop.
FAST FIVE (Universal) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $209.8M Total: $626.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HOP (Universal) Budget: $63M. Domestic Gross: $108.1M Total: $184.0M Verdict: Hit.
ARTHUR (Warner Brothers) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $33.0M Total: $45.7M Verdict: Flop.
HANNA (Focus) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $40.3M Total: $63.8M Verdict: Made Money.
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER? (20th Century Fox) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $14.0M Total: $30.4M Verdict: Flop.
YOUR HIGHNESS (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $21.6M Total: $24.9M Verdict: Flop.

SUMMER

Summer is the movie fan’s Nirvana as the big blockbusters muscle their way into theaters. There is much to look forward to here as the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy hits theaters, the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise makes the grade, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones make a long-awaited return as the agents of MIB, Ridley Scott brings up an epic sci-fi classic (and when the maker of Alien and Blade Runner does sci-fi, we pay attention), Marvel’s superheroes team up and much, much more. Cinema365 will present our annual summer preview at the end of April but for now here’s a quick look at some of the movies anticipated for this Olympic summer.

GOLD MEDAL

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Juno Temple
STORY: After the events of The Dark Knight Batman is an outlaw but must once again take the mantle of a hero on as Gotham City is threatened by the Catwoman and the most lethal villain yet – Bane.
PROSPECTS: This is quite likely to be the biggest movie of 2012. It is already slated to be the last Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman movie, and the studio is pulling out all the stops.
OBSTACLES: Overexposure might cause some backlash and should the movie get poor reviews it might not get the repeat business the last two movies in the trilogy have received.
FACTOID: This is the fifth film in a row that Caine and Nolan have worked together in; the three Batman movies, Inception and The Prestige.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

THE AVENGERS

RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2012
STUDIO: Marvel/Disney
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard
STORY: The greatest heroes of the Marvel Movie Universe must unite to save the Earth from a dire threat, but uniting these heroes and getting them to work as a team may not be as easy as it sounds.
PROSPECTS: This is the big one. Marvel’s movies usually are among the summer’s biggest moneymakers and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case here. If director Josh Whedon does his job right, this might be the biggest moneymaker in Marvel history.
OBSTACLES: This is a big budget movie that both Marvel and Disney have a lot riding on. Over-promotion might sour audiences before the show even opens.
FACTOID: This is the first Marvel movie to be distributed by Disney who bought Marvel Comics a couple of years ago. Paramount, who had an agreement with Marvel Studios, retains a share of the profits in exchange for an early termination of their agreement; the Paramount logo also appears on the movie’s poster.

MEN IN BLACK III

RELEASE DATE: May 25, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg, Nicole Scherzinger
STORY: Agent J must travel back in time when he discovers that time has been altered, with his partner Agent K dead for forty years.
PROSPECTS: The first two movies are among Columbia’s most profitable ever. Even though it’s been awhile since the last movie, the interest in it seems to remain high.
OBSTACLES: It has been teen years since the last movie which is an awfully long time between sequels and it will have some pretty fierce competition this summer.
FACTOID: This is the first Will Smith film in three and a half years, the longest he’s gone in his career without making a film.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, C. Thomas Howell
STORY: A young teenager is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops incredible powers. He is matched up against a brilliant scientist who in order to regenerate a missing arm injects himself with the concentrated DNA of a lizard and ends up becoming one.
PROSPECTS: The Spider-Man franchise has made literally billions of dollars for Sony. Adding fresh faces to the mix should serve to reinvigorate the franchise which some hits after the third movie.
OBSTACLES: This is a reboot of the series and appears to be going the origin route again, putting it in direct competition with Spider-Man which it will be compared to inevitably.
FACTOID: Martin Sheen is playing Uncle Ben Parker, which was played by Cliff Robertson in the first three films. Both men also played the late President Kennedy, Sheen in “Kennedy” and Robertson in P.T. 109.

PROMETHEUS

RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Charlize Theron, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Patrick Wilson, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce, Rafe Spall
STORY: A team of scientists travels to the farthest reaches of space to find out the answers to some of the deepest questions mankind has ever asked. The answers turn out to be quite dangerous.
PROSPECTS: Ridley Scott is back directing a movie that was widely believed to be an Alien prequel but has turned out to be a stand-alone film that is set in the same universe. Ever since the trailer came out the buzz has been ratcheted up to 11 on a scale of 1 to 10.
OBSTACLES: Will be up against The Avengers and Men in Black III which might hurt its box office chances some.
FACTOID: Theron beat out Angelina Jolie for her role.

UNDERDOG

DARK SHADOWS

RELEASE DATE: June 11, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Moretz
STORY: Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire, is awakened in 1972 and finds his family, once one of the most prosperous in New England, fallen upon hard times.
PROSPECTS: The legendary Gothic horror soap opera is given the Tim Burton treatment. Having Depp as Barnabas only makes this a more likely candidate for box office success.
OBSTACLES: While the show is available on DVD, it still remains mostly a cult favorite. Whether it can emerge from that remains to be seen.
FACTOID: Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker and David Selby from the original series all have cameos in the film.

ALSO RUNNING

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a middle eastern dictator who comes to America (May 11). WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) is based on the bestseller of the same name and follows five families as they experience the joys of pregnancy – and yes, it’s a comedy (May 11). BATTLESHIP (Universal) is based on the Hasbro board game and pits the U.S. Navy versus an invading alien force. Hoping this Battleship doesn’t get sunk (May 18). THE ROCK OF AGES (New Line) is an adaptation of the hit Broadway musical using classic rock songs. Can Rock of Ages 2 be far behind (June 1). SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) is the second Snow White film of 2012 and takes on a more action-adventure spin. Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth play the titular characters (June 1). MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) finds the animals trying to get back to New York City, but having to go after the penguins in Paris. Having caused an international incident, they have to go on the lam but they do so in style – pretending to be circus performers (June 8). I HATE YOU, DAD (Columbia) is the latest from Adam Sandler as he plays a dad moving in with his adult son on the eve of his marriage to a woman that dad promptly begins to feud with (June 15). JACK THE GIANT KILLER (New Line) takes the Jack and the Beanstalk fable and turns it into an action-adventure fantasy. Bryan Singer (X-Men) directs (June 15). ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (20th Century Fox) opines that the 16th President had a secret life – as a slayer of fanged fiends. Based on the Seth Grahame-Smith novel, it is to be directed by Timur (Wanted) Bekmambatov (June 22). BRAVE (Disney/Pixar) is the first non-sequel Pixar has produced in three years. Here, they go to Scotland to catch up with a courageous young woman determined to set her own place in a man’s world (June 22). G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) is a sequel to the 2009 hit with an almost entirely-new cast, including Dwayne Johnson; hopefully they got some new writers as well (June 29). MAGIC MIKE (Warner Brothers) stars Channing Tatum and is based largely on his experiences as a male stripper. Steven Soderbergh directs (June 29). ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (20th Century Fox) brings cataclysmic upheaval to the world (thanks to Skrat’s single-minded acorn pursuit) which will create overwhelming odds for Manny, Diego and Sid to get back home (July 13). TED (Universal) comes from the warped mind of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and stars Mark Wahlberg as a man who’s cherished childhood teddy bear came to life as a result of a childhood wish – and now won’t leave his side (July 13). NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH (20th Century Fox) is a comedy about a bunch of men in a suburban neighborhood who form a neighborhood watch as an excuse to engage in male-bonding activities but come up against a plot to destroy the world (July 27). STEP UP 4 (Summit) is the latest in the dance series (July 27). TYLER PERRY’S THE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (Lionsgate) is yet another Perry-directed movie, this time about a female marriage counselor who violates her own code and has an affair with one of her clients, realizing that she’s made a terrible mistake possibly too late to save her own marriage (July 27). THE BOURNE LEGACY (Universal) is a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner plays a completely different character that is set in the Bourne universe and, eventually, may pave the way for the return of Jason Bourne (August 3). DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) takes Greg and his best friend Rowley into the worst summer of all time. And here I thought Bummer Summers were sooooo 2011. (August 3). TOTAL RECALL (Columbia) is a remake of the 1990 Schwarzenegger film that was in turn based on a short story by Philip K. Dick; this new version is said to be closer to the source material and stars Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid (August 3). DOG FIGHT (Warner Brothers) stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians in the same South Carolina congressional district. South Carolina? Makes me wonder if Nicholas Sparks is somehow involved (August 10). SPARKLE (Columbia) stars Jordin Sparks as the titular character, the youngest member of a sibling trio singing group in Detroit of the 60s. She will climb and claw her way up the fame ladder, not nearly ready for what awaits her there (August 10).In WARM BODIES (Summit) the world is turned upside down when a zombie rescues a human girl from the ravages of his fellow zombies, leading to a very unlikely romance (August 10). THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) is about a loving couple who have been unable to have children. When they play a game to create “the perfect child,” one shows up at their door, setting off a chain reaction of unlikely, magical events (August 15). THE EXPENDABLES 2 (Lionsgate) is the sequel to the all-star action picture from 2010 and adds Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude van Damme (August 17). In PARANORMAN (Focus) a town is overrun by zombies and must turn to a young boy who can speak with the dead in order to have a prayer to break the curse that is destroying the town. From the people that brought you Coraline (August 17). In THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) a young couple discovers that they are being haunted by a presence that might have been summoned during a parapsychology experiment they participated in college, a presence that feeds on their fears (August 24). In OUTRUN (Open Road) a getaway car driver violates his Witness Protection Program to drive his girlfriend to California so she can get her dream job. In between them and their destination are the Feds, the Mob and all manner of eccentric characters (August 24). PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger who gets caught between corrupt cops and some very nasty killers, literally putting his life on the line for this rush delivery (August 24). In SINISTER (Summit) a true crime novelist finds a box of home videos that apparently depict entire families being butchered. He soon realizes that there may be a supernatural element involved that is placing his own family into the crosshairs. Ethan Hawke stars (August 24). 7500 (CBS) has a group of passengers on a Transatlantic flight encounter a supernatural force that threatens their lives (August 31). THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick as a couple who unwittingly bring a cursed box into their home and release a malevolent spirit, a dybbuk from Jewish folklore.(August 31)

FALL

This is the portion of the 2012 schedule that is the most likely to change quite a bit, although there are a few movies we can pretty much expect to see barring unexpected delays. Peter Jackson will return to Middle Earth, Daniel Craig will return to MI-6, Bella and Edward will return to giving each other meaningful soulful looks, and Zombies will return to…well, doing what it is that Zombies do. At the end of August, the annual Cinema365 Fall Preview should hit the site with more a more detailed look at all things Fall/Holiday cinematic.

GOLD MEDAL

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

RELEASE DATE: December 14, 2012
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Banchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy
STORY: The book that preceded The Lord of the Rings finally gets a live action big screen treatment courtesy of Rings director Peter Jackson. Here, Bilbo Baggins, an adventurous young hobbit, is recruited by the wizard Gandalf to aid a group of dwarves in a fight against the great dragon Smaug.
PROSPECTS: The Lord of the Rings series generated huge bucks and fan love all over the world and there’s no reason to believe this won’t do the same. The first trailer is already out and the acclaim has been near-universal.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit was meant as more of a children’s story; one wonders if adults will embrace the film version as much as Rings.
FACTOID: The movie has overcome many obstacles just to get made; it awaited in development hell while MGM emerged from its bankruptcy problems, then shooting was delayed for some time while union issues in New Zealand were ironed out and again later while Jackson was recovering from perforated ulcer surgery.

ON THE MEDAL STAND

SKYFALL

RELEASE DATE: November 9, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia/MGM
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace, Berenice Marlohe
STORY: A ghost from M’s past comes back to haunt her and as her sins come back to attack MI-6, Bond must track down and eliminate the threat, regardless of the fallout.
PROSPECTS: Hey, it’s Bond. Even the least successful films in the series still made money. With Sam Mendes in the director’s chair, interest is higher than usual in the latest installment of the series.
OBSTACLES: The MGM bankruptcy proceedings delayed this movie more than two years, and the last film in the series was a bit of a disappointment.
FACTOID: The movie’s premiere date is within a few days of the 50th anniversary of the release of the first James Bond movie, Dr. No.

TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN PART 2

RELEASE DATE: November 16, 2012
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 first arriving in 2011) 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 four movies of the series blockbusters. With this being the final movie in the series, interest is bound to be off the charts. If it follows a similar course to Harry Potter, this could conceivably challenge The Dark Knight Rises for biggest box office numbers of the year.
OBSTACLES: Breaking Dawn Part 1‘s box office numbers declined about $50M from Eclipse and unless there’s a real jump in the overall quality of the franchise I don’t see much of an appeal beyond the established fan base.
FACTOID: Stephenie Meyer wrote that she wanted the baby of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan to have a unique name; she couldn’t find one that stood out so she made one up – Renesmee.

WORLD WAR Z

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2012
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Matthew Fox, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, David Morse, Eric West, David Andrews, Katia Bokor
STORY: A United Nations functionary travels around the world in an effort to stop a global zombie pandemic.
PROSPECTS: This one has been gestating awhile, but has finally got off the ground with superstar Pitt behind it. The buzz on this one is huge.
OBSTACLES: Are zombie movies becoming passé? There are a lot of them out there and more in the pipeline. Time will tell…
FACTOID: Max Brooks, author of the book the movie is based on, is the son of legendary filmmaker Mel Brooks and actress Anne Bancroft.

UNDERDOG

DJANGO UNCHAINED

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2012
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Sacha Baron Cohen, Kurt Russell, Dennis Christopher, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kerry Washington, Don Johnson, Anthony LaPaglia, Gerald McRaney, RZA, Tom Wopat, James Remar, M.C. Gainey
STORY: A freed slave and a German bounty hunter team up to liberate his wife from an evil plantation owner.
PROSPECTS: It’s Quentin Tarantino, man! His first outing since Inglourious Basterds has an incredible cast and looks to take Tarantino’s manic pulp attitude into Mandingo territory.
OBSTACLES: The subject matter may be a bit sensitive for some. Tarantino’s style isn’t for everybody, although Basterds made a mint.
FACTOID: Although the movie is technically a Western, Tarantino refers to it as a “Southern” due to it’s setting.

ALSO RUNNING

ARGO (Warner Brothers) is Ben Affleck’s latest directorial effort, this time concentrating on a truth-based story about a rescue during the Iranian hostage crisis of six Americans hiding at the Cambodian embassy in Teheran, a story that has been kept secret until now (September 14). RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Screen Gems) is the fifth in the successful video game adaptation series, one which brings characters not seen in the series yet from the video game to life (September 14). DREDD (Lionsgate) is a reboot of the popular British comic series Judge Dredd (previously made into a movie in 1995 with Sylvester Stallone) with Karl Urban the taciturn, remorseless police officer, judge, jury and executioner (September 21). HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (Columbia) is an animated feature about a resort run by Count Dracula for all the monsters to relax, free from the meddling of humans. Chaos ensues when a normal human stumbles onto the hotel and proceeds to fall in love with Dracula’s daughter Mavis (September 21). LOOPER (TriStar) stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mob contractor of the future who kills his victims and sends them back 30 years into the past in order to cover up the evidence of the crime. When he is given a target that he discovers is a future version of himself, he may have to change the past in order to save his future. Highly regarded indie director Rian Johnson sits in the big chair for this one (September 28). SAVAGES (Universal) is Oliver Stone’s latest movie, this time about a ruthless Mexico drug cartel that moves in on an idyllic marijuana operation. It’s based on a bestselling novel by Don Winslow and stars an all-star cast anchored by John Travolta, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek (September 28). FRANKENWEENIE (Disney) was Tim Burton’s classic stop-motion animation short that helped establish his career back in the 80s. Now, he has returned to it, making a full-length feature film in glorious black and white about a boy who brings his beloved pet back from the grave by stitching a new body from spare dog parts and superior science. When Sparky gets loose, it touches off a firestorm of consequence (October 5). TAKEN 2 (20th Century Fox) is the sequel to the 2008 Liam Neeson action hit that reverses the circumstances; now it is the father and mother who are in the hands of the kidnappers and the daughter who must save them, but she learned more than a few things from daddy (October 5). TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 3D (Lionsgate) is a new version of the classic horror story as a young woman travels to a small Texas town to claim her inheritance, property who already has a tenant – Leatherface (October 5). FUN SIZE (Paramount) has been described as a cross between Adventures in Babysitting and Superbad set on Halloween (October 12). HERE COMES THE BOOM (Columbia) stars Kevin James as a high school biology teacher who moonlights as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter to raise money for the high school’s music program (October 12). PARKER (FilmDistrict) is based on the Donald Westlake series, and stars Jason Statham in the title role as a thief who lives by a Robin Hood-like code to never steal from people who need it more than he does. That cuts out a whole lot of people (October 12). THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) stars Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro as a happily divorced couple who must pretend to still be married for their son’s wedding (October 19). In THE GANGSTER SQUAD (Warner Brothers) mobster Mickey Cohen does battle with the LAPD. This one has an amazing cast, including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone (October 19). HALLOWEEN 3D (Dimension) is the third in the rebooted series with director Patrick Lussier taking over for Rob Zombie (October 26). OF MEN AND MAVERICKS (20th Century Fox) is the story of iconic surfer Jay Moriarty, directed by the Oscar-nominated Curtis Hanson (October 26). In MY MOTHER’S CURSE (Paramount) an inventor invites his mom on a cross-country road trip to sell his new product and things go far from according to plan. You’d expect that when son and mother are played by Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand (November 2). RED DAWN (FilmDistrict) is that remake of the 1984 Commie invasion movie that was made two years ago but has been sitting on the shelf pending the outcome of MGM’s bankruptcy. New distributor FilmDistrict picked it up and has finally given it a release date. Hope it’s worth the wait (November 2). WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) is an animated feature which features a video game villain trying to change his image, but unleashing unmentionable evil in the process. Just thought we’d mention it (November 2). 47 RONIN (Universal) stars Keanu Reeves in an epic fantasy adventure in which a group of masterless samurai band together and take on the vicious overlord who betrayed and murdered their master (November 21). GRAVITY (Warner Brothers) is a sci-fi thriller from director Alfonso Cuaron starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a pair of astronauts stranded in space when their spacecraft is destroyed (November 21). PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th Century Fox) stars Bette Midler and Billy Crystal as a pair of grandparents called in to help care for their daughter’s kids; their old school methods collide with the modern kids, forcing the grandparents to change their methods so that their grandkids get a chance to act like…well, kids (November 21). RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a team of childhood legends – Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny and so on – rising to meet a terrible threat, using their special powers to save the day (November 21). In THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Weinstein) a man released from a mental institution into the care of his mother doesn’t realize that four years have passed instead of a few months. He sets out to woo back his estranged wife, attempting to become the man she always wanted – not realizing that things have changed with her as well. (November 21). LES MISERABLES (Universal) brings the hit Broadway musical to the screen. Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway star (December 7). GREAT HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) stars Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep as a couple who travel to a small town for a week of intensive marital and sex therapy with a famed relationship guru played by Steve Carrell. Something tells me this trip could potentially do their marriage more harm than good (December 14). UNTITLED KATHRYN BIGELOW FILM (Columbia) is about Osama bin Laden and is her first film since winning the Oscar for The Hurt Locker (December 19). In LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) a young man survives the wreck of a freighter, sharing a lifeboat with a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan (December 21). HUNTER KILLER (Relativity) stars Gerard Butler and Sam Worthington, as an untested sub captain must team up with a team of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian President (December 21). THIS IS 40 (Universal) is the latest from Judd Apatow and includes characters from Knocked Up (December 21). THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers) is director Baz Luhrmann’s (Moulin Rouge) version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic. Leonardo DiCaprio stars (December 16).

MOVIES CURRENTLY WITHOUT RELEASE DATES BUT LIKELY TO OPEN

PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) is the sequel to the surprise hit remake from last fall, this time in 3D. Ooooh. Aaaah. ANNA KARENINA (Focus) gives Leo Tolstoy the big screen lush production treatment. Joe Wright (Hanna) Keira Knightley stars in the title role. STRETCH ARMSTRONG (Universal), the popular ’80s action figure, is hitting the big screen with Twilight star Taylor Lautner in the title role. GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) brings back the giant lizard to menace Tokyo, or wherever the filmmakers care to put him. The producers have said that there will be other monsters that Godzilla is set to battle, although which ones haven’t been revealed yet. NERO FIDDLED (Sony Classics) is Woody Allen’s follow-up to Midnight in Paris, his most successful movie since the ’70s. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit) is the coming-of-age story of a 15-year-old boy who copes with his first love, the suicide of his best friend and his own mental illness. Harry Potter’s Emma Watson stars. BEYOD THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) played at the Tribeca film festival earlier this year and got raves. It’s a sci-fi psychedelic thriller about a telekinetic young girl being studied (read: imprisoned) at a futuristic scientific facility. PITCH PERFECT (Universal) follows the cut-throat world of collegiate choir competitions.

There are a lot of reasons to head over to the multiplex, even though many of us are not doing that nearly as often – box office numbers continue to decline, partially due to the bad economy but also due to the availability of video streaming, video on demand and other ways to see movies without leaving the comfort of our own home. Still, we will never entirely lose the need to slip into a dark theater, a bag of popcorn in one hand and a large cold drink in the other. 2013 is going to have a lot of reasons to do that, including sequels in the Thor, Iron Man, The Hobbit and Despicable Me franchises, as well as a return of Superman, a number of highly anticipated science fiction films including Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and the Governator’s return to the movies. Until then, there’s a whole lot of 2012 to look forward to and Cinema365 will be doing just that with a plethora of new reviews, previews and features to keep you busy all year long. See you at the movies!