Suicide Squad


Wanna come out and play?

Wanna come out and play?

(2016) Superhero (Warner Brothers) Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney, Ben Affleck, Ezra Miller, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Kenneth Choi, Alain Chanoine, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Common, Jim Parrack, David Harbour, Shailyn Pierre-Dixon. Directed by David Ayer

 

There are those who maintain that a hero is nothing without a memorable villain to oppose him. That’s largely true; what would James Bond be without Blofeld, Holmes without Moriarty or Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader? We usually see things from the hero’s point of view but rarely do we get a glimpse into the world of the super villain.

Following the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the American government is extremely nervous. What would happen, posits Amanda Waller (Davis) who works for a shadowy intelligence agency, if Superman had instead of saving the world decided to destroy it? Who would stop him? Waller has an idea, one that is magnificent in its simplicity and alarming at its utter amorality.

She “recruits” (i.e. forces) several super villains locked up in the Belle Reve black ops prison in the swamps of Louisiana to form up a team to take on certain situations which are essentially hopeless. Situations in which the superheroes that are out in public (which are essentially Batman (Affleck) and the Flash (Miller) at this point) shouldn’t be risked as they aren’t exactly expendable. These guys are exactly that. Waller knows that and at the same time, she knows they have nothing to lose by running. She has a solution that recalls The Running Man to a certain extent but absolutely doesn’t say anything particularly nice about the woman.

And who are these guys? For one, there’s Deadshot (Smith), an assassin for hire who never misses with any firearm you give him. Then there’s Harley Quinn (Robbie), the deranged ex-psychiatrist who is now the Joker’s (Leto) girlfriend but who is a formidable opponent of her own. Then there’s Diablo (Hernandez), a gang banger who can shoot flames in any direction but when his powers caused the death of his wife and son, is attempting to reform and has vowed to never use his powers again.

=Add to that list Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a horribly mutated man who is half man, half crocodile and eats people when he gets the chance. Then there’s Enchantress, a demonic spirit that has possessed archaeologist June Moon (Delevingne) and possesses incredible magic powers, Captain Boomerang (Courtney), an Aussie thief whose weapon of choice is a boomerang that he is absolutely deadly accurate with. Finally there’s Slipknot (Beach), whose ability to climb any surface makes him a useful scout.

Overseeing these representatives of the lunatic fringe is Captain Rick Flagg (Kinnaman), a Navy SEAL who just happens to be Professor Moon’s boyfriend – and who is himself tough as nails. Having his back is Katana (Fukuhara), a Japanese martial artist with an enchanted sword that captures the souls of its victims – which include her husband among their number. Katana is able to communicate with the spirits in the blade, including her late hubby.

They are battling a mystical opponent who wants to essentially open a rift in the dimension that will end civilization as we know it. The problem is that the Suicide Squad as they have come to be known as don’t really give a rat’s tush about civilization. If they can stop fighting amongst themselves, though, they might just come through of it alive. The odds are not good for either however.

Let’s be blunt to start out; the DC Extended Universe (what they call their cinematic division) has not had the kind of success that Marvel has and the critics have absolutely excoriated this movie. Now, I will be the first to say that DC’s cinematic path hasn’t caught on for a reason; in trying to duplicate the tone of the very successful Dark Knight trilogy of Christopher Nolan. You’ll notice that the Marvel cinematic universe is anything but.

But is this movie really that bad? I don’t think so…for one thing it’s entertaining as all get out. Ayers is a director who has a very fine eye and a well-developed story-telling sense. He also knows how important it is for there to be fun in the equation, and there’s lots of great by-play between the characters and a lot of humor injected into the script.

He also has a helluva cast. Smith, one of the biggest stars in the world, has rarely been better than he is here. Yes, his Deadshot is one of the more developed characters in the film, but Smith gets to play a villain who has some human qualities as well (he’s absolutely devoted to his daughter, played by Pierre-Dixon for one). He also shows the kind of leadership skills shown by Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers in the Marvel Universe. The DC Universe sorely needs that.

Robbie has almost as much time in the movie as Smith and her Harley Quinn took a different path to the silver screen; Harley Quinn didn’t initially come from the comic books but from the television animated shows. She went from there to the comic books which she became something of an icon, particularly to female comic book fangirls. Robbie fills the role well; while some have groused that the character has been overly sexualized here (including Robbie herself), she turns in an intense performance, particularly since she has to go up against Oscar winner Jared Leto as her boyfriend/abuser the Joker.

Leto has been very vocal in his disappointment about what the role turned out to be, and in all fairness the Joker was never supposed to be a central character here. However, it stands to reason that you can’t really have Harley Quinn with Mr. J; it doesn’t work. His take on the Joker is a lot different than that of Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, Heath Ledger or even Cesar Romero. Not better, not worse, just different. I liked Leto’s Joker just fine; he’s supposed to be unpredictable and Leto certainly makes him that. He isn’t nearly as menacing as Ledger’s Joker, nor as twisted as Nicholson’s. However, this Joker is wilder, more untamed than either. It is a good interpretation.

There are a lot of special effects, particularly involving the mystical vortex thingy that the Big Bads are creating. There are an awful lot of trans-dimensional vortices in superhero movies as of late and as those sorts of things go, this one is no worse nor any better than most. It just isn’t all that impressive; neither are most of the practical effects. Also, there are moments when the plot gets a little bit, ahh, thick. I found it a touch confusing at times and perhaps more casual comic book fans might feel the same.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the heck out of the movie. These really aren’t the A-list of DC villains (although the Joker is present) but some of the mid-level guys. Quinn and Deadshot both look like slam-dunks coming back for more cinematic superhero goodness. And all things considered, this didn’t do the DC Extended Universe better; it might well be the best of the three that have appeared so far, at least in my book. However, it still isn’t slam dunk enough to really elevate the franchise into a place where I’m actually excited about it. Maybe Wonder Woman will bring that to the game.

REASONS TO GO: There is excellent interaction between an excellent cast. Smith is at his very best here. Brings some of DC’s lesser villains to light.
REASONS TO STAY: The special effects are unimpressive. The story is occasionally confusing.
FAMILY VALUES: As you’d expect, plenty of violence and superhero action, some sexually suggestive material and a bit of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Harley Quinn’s baseball bat was given to Kevin Smith to thank him for hosting the TV special Dawn of the Justice League shortly before this film came out.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/29/16: Rotten Tomatoes: 26% positive reviews. Metacritic: 40/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Deadpool
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT: Gleason

New Releases for the Week of August 5, 2016


Suicide SquadSUICIDE SQUAD

(Warner Brothers) Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne. Directed by David Ayer

There are some jobs that a superhero just can’t do. They are far too valuable to risk. That’s when you send in the other guys, or in this case, a government-selected group of super-villains who have nothing to lose and are completely expendable. Given no option but to succeed or die, will they take on an impossible task and perhaps save the world, or bicker among themselves and go down in flames along with the rest of us?

See the trailer, a clip, a promo, a featurette and a video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX
Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language)

Bazodee

(Serafini) Staz Nair, Kabir Bedi, Natalie Perera, Valmike Rampersad. The daughter of an Indian businessman agrees to marry a wealthy man in order to get her father out of the crushing debt he’s under. However, at her engagement party she meets an intriguing reggae musician with whom she develops a complicated friendship…which leads to forbidden feelings that catch the eye of the protective brother of her fiance who sets out to ruin everything and everyone involved.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks

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

Nine Lives

(EuropaCorp/Relativity) Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner, Robbie Amell, Christopher Walken. A workaholic Dad on the eve of his biggest career triumph ever is on the way home to his daughter’s 11th birthday with the gift she’s always wanted – a cat. He hates cats, but had to scramble to find a gift and this is what he came up with. After a terrible car accident, he awakens with his consciousness inside the cat. He begins to get an entirely new outlook about his family through the eyes of the cat and begins to understand what he could potentially lose. It will take an extreme effort on his part to earn back his humanity and rejoin the family he’d taken for granted for so long.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Family Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG (for thematic elements, language and some rude humor)

Pick of the Litter – August 2016


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad

(Warner Brothers) Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney. The DC Cinematic Universe got off to a rocky start with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice even though the movie did well at the box office. The hope is that this movie will get the franchise moving in the right direction after fan and critic dissatisfaction with the bloated DoJ entry. With director David Ayer at the helm, this film brings together a group of super-criminals tasked to take on an impossible mission that either they succeed or die…literally. With a terrific cast, an appearance by Batman himself and a couple of trailers that serve notice this is going to be different than every other superhero film we’ve ever seen, hope springs eternal even for the hard-to-please fanboy contingent. August 5

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Front Cover

Front Cover

(Strand) Jake Choi, James Chen, Jennifer Neala Page, Elizabeth Sung. An up-and-coming Chinese actor comes to the United States to promote his film with a photo shoot; assigned to him is a gay American fashion stylist who has turned his back on his own Asian heritage. The two men who couldn’t be further apart in temperament and cultural appreciation start out detesting one another. However, in the grand tradition of American romance films, they begin falling for each other which could mean the end of the acting career if word gets out. August 5

My King

 My King (Mon Roi)

(Film Movement) Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Bercot, Louis Garrel, Isild Le Besco. A woman is admitted to a rehab facility after a terrifying skiing accident. Addicted to pain killers, completely dependent on the medical staff, she begins to reminisce about her tumultuous relationship with a mercurial restaurateur. She considers how good it all was to begin with and how it inexorably turned bad over the years until she wondered how she got into that situation to begin with. Bercot won the Jury Best Actress award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival for her performance here. August 12


Imperium
Imperium

(Grindstone) Daniel Radcliffe, Toni Collette, Burn Gorman, Tracy Letts. A young FBI behavioral analyst with no field experience is thrust into the role of an undercover informant in the very dangerous world of white supremacist terrorists. The young agent must find a way to compromise his closely held beliefs while maintaining the identity that may help put away some dangerous men and save lives. This is inspired by an actual incident which means that what really happened is vastly different than what appears here, but if this is as good a thriller as it looks to be, who cares?. August 19

Ixcanul

Ixcanul

(Kino Lorber) Maria Mercedes Coroy, Maria Telón, Manuel Antún, Justo Lorenzo. For the Kaqchikel tribe living on the slopes of an active volcano in Guatemala, life continues on much the way as it has for a thousand years. For Maria, a daughter of two tribesmen, her life is about to change when a marriage is arranged for her by her parents. When her suitor must spend several months working in the city, she finds herself in a world she can’t understand. August 19

Morris from America

Morris from America

(A24) Craig Robinson, Carla Juri, Lina Keller, Markees Christmas. A young wanna-be rapper has his world turned inside out when his father moves him to Germany. Young Morris is none too happy about the way things are turning out until he meets a young German girl who encourages him to find his voice as a rapper and perform in public. This was one of the most acclaimed movies to come out of Sundance and also played the Florida Film Festival this year. August 19

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove

(Music Box) Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Jerker Fahlström, Sofie Gallerspång. Deposed as the president of his condominium society, 59-year-old Swedish widower Ove is out to end it all, in the meantime ruling over the condo complex with an iron fist. A chance meeting with a new neighbor leads to something different…maybe even a reason to live. Director Hannes Holm, who has been at the helm for several of Sweden’s most side-splitting comedies, also wrote this based on a bestselling novel. August 26

In Order of Disappearance

In Order of Disappearance

(Magnet) Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Jakob Oftebro, Brigitte Hjort Sørensen. Scandinavia has recently turned out some really fine movies and this Norwegian black comedy is the latest in a long line of cinematic excellence. Skarsgård stars as a small town snowplow driver grieving the death of his son and in the process, getting caught in the middle of a drug war between local drug dealers and Serbian gangsters looking to take over the territory. It’s a little bit Coen Brothers in tone, which is all I needed to hear. August 26

2016 Summer Movie Preview


2016 Summer PreviewAfter a record-breaking summer blockbuster season last year, most pundits agree that this year will be a little bit less dramatic, although there will be plenty of movies that will likely earn north of $200M and a few that have a good shot to go better than $300M. With alternative viewing methods – online streaming, video-on-demand and other services competing with the traditional multiplex for audiences, things will continue to change as Hollywood goes kicking and screaming into the next decade.

Likely studio accountants are going to remember with some nostalgia big budget winners like Jurassic World which dominated the summer box office in 2015; Mad Max: Fury Road which not only did bang-up business but also ended up with several Oscar nominations (and wins, albeit for the technical end). Avengers: Age of Ultron was slightly disappointing from a critical standpoint but also from the box office, while Inside Out won the family film box office derby this past summer.

Superhero movies will continue to be the 900 lb gorilla of the box office, with Captain America: Civil War opening to great hype (and the introduction of new heroes not to mention the first appearance of fan favorite Spider-Man in the MCU) and the final installation in the most recent trilogy of mutant mania X-Men: Apocalypse representing the House of Ideas, while Suicide Squad continues the rolling out of the DC Cinematic Universe.

Sequels tend to play a major role in the summer line-up and things are no different this year with the aforementioned Captain America: Civil War, Star Trek Beyond, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Darkness, The Conjuring 2, Now You See Me 2, Finding Dory, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Purge: Election Year, Ice Age: Collision Course, Jason Bourne and Mechanic Resurrection. There will also be a fair share of reboots and remakes including Ghostbusters, Absolutely Fabulous, The Legend of Tarzan, Ben-Hur and Pete’s Dragon.

There are always films decked to tickle your funny bone and 2016 has a few in store for us, including  Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Central Intelligence, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Ghostbusters, Bad Moms, Sausage Party and War Dogs. If its scares you’re after, look no further than The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe, The Darkness, Ghostbusters, Lights Out and Spectral. There will be plenty of sci-fi and fantasy goodness on the summer schedule including Star Trek Beyond, Independence Day: Resurgence, Warcraft, Equals and The Space Between Us while the action quotient will be amped up with such fare as The Nice Guys, Captain America: Civil War, Kidnap, Central Intelligence, The Legend of Tarzan, The Purge: Election Year, Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad, Ben-Hur and Mechanic: Resurrection. Last year was a good year for family films and this year has an impressive slate including Finding Dory, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The BFG, Kubo and the Two Strings, Ice Age: Collision Course, The Angry Birds Movie, Pete’s Dragon and The Secret Life of Pets. There will also be enough drama for everyone as you can check out Money Monster, Free State of Jones, Me Before You, Equity and The Founder.

There’s no better time for star-gazing than the summer and the stars will truly be out again in force this year with Kevin Hart, Melissa McCarthy, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Robert Redford, Woody Harrelson, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Caine, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Patrick Wilson, Chris Hemsworth, Ellen de Generes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Seth Rogen, Chris Pine, Anne Hathaway, Margot Robbie, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Sudeikis, Ray Romano, Matthew McConaughey, Jeff Goldblum, Oscar Isaac, Blake Lively, Christoph Waltz, Teresa Palmer, George Clooney, Jason Statham, Russell Crowe, Chris Evans, Kevin Bacon, Samuel L. Jackson, Daniel Radcliffe, Keanu Reeves, Bill Hader, Louis C.K., Zac Efron, Mark Rylance, Kristen Wiig, Simon Pegg, Ryan Gosling, Jennifer Lopez, Aubrey Plaza, Vera Farmiga, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Lawrence, Ben Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Bill Murray, Mila Kunis, Anthony Mackey, Michael Keaton, Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia Wasikowska, Andy Samberg, Sam Claflin, Megan Fox , Jesse Eisenberg, Vivica A. Fox, Kristen Stewart, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Anna Kendrick, Alicia Vikander, Jeremy Renner, Jared Leto, Michelle Yeoh, Bryce Dallas Howard, Asa Butterfield, Nicholas Hoult and James McAvoy

While this probably won’t be the record-setting year that Hollywood enjoyed in 2015, there are still plenty of movies on that list that are bound to fill the cool air-conditioned multiplex on a hot summer day. So why not get to the meat and potatoes of this she-bang – let’s get to previewing!

MAY

As always, the summer movie season goes big to start off the year as not one but two Marvel superhero movies bookend the month. Also, we can expect a return to a classic magical land, a massively possible video game turned animated feature and a comedy in which a suburban couple finds that the people next door go from bad to worse.

Captain America Civil War

FIRST CHOICE

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

RELEASE DATE: May 6, 2016
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
GENRE: Superhero
STARRING: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, William Hurt, Chadwick Boseman, Sebastian Stan, Jeremy Renner
STORY: Given the collateral damage that results in the Avengers efforts to save humanity from aliens and robots, it was inevitable that there’d be some push back. With government oversight proposed for all superheroes, the new hero registration laws fracture the Avengers into two camps; one led by Captain America preferring the Avengers be free to protect humanity as needed, the other led by Iron Man welcoming regulations and restrictions. Something has to give.
PROSPECTS: Phase III of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicks off with a bang and it couldn’t be in better hands. The Russo Brothers last time up directed what many consider to be the best film in the franchise so far: Captain America: The Winter Soldier and their experiences here will allow them to take over the Avengers series more effectively from Joss Wheden.
OBSTACLES: The Avengers: Age of Ultron was disappointing albeit successful, both from a critical and box office standpoint. Could it be that Mighty Marvel has oversaturated the market?
FACTOID: This is the thirteenth official film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

SECOND CHOICE

THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jason Sudeikis, Bill Hader, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Keegan-Michael Key, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph, Danny McBride
STORY: An island of flightless but happy birds is visited by mysterious green pigs. It is up to a trio of outsiders to find out what the porcine invaders are up to.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular mobile games of all time, the characters seem ready made for animated franchise-dom.
OBSTACLES: Features based on video games have traditionally not fared well.
FACTOID: The Angry Birds game has been downloaded more than a billion times since 2009.

NEIGHBORS 2: SORORITY RISING

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
GENRE: Comedy
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Rose Byrne, Selena Gomez, Dave Franco, Lisa Kudrow, Ike Bairnholz
STORY: Having weathered the fraternity next door, the Radners are getting ready to grow their family by one more, which will require a move to the suburbs. However, now they have a new neighbor that will make that impossible – a sorority full of girls out to prove they can be just as raunchy and badass as the boys.
PROSPECTS: The first Neighbors was a surprise hit and big comedies make excellent counterprogramming to big budget blockbusters that usually lead off the summer.
OBSTACLES: Might not have the star power to hang with other movies in the highly competitive May line-up.
FACTOID: Rogen’s first live-action sequel.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
GENRE: Fantasy
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Rhys Ifans, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman (voice), Michael Sheen
STORY: Alice discovers a magic mirror that allows her to return to Underland, only to discover that things have changed drastically since her last visit. The Mad Hatter is not himself any longer, his Muchness having disappeared. Alice goes on a desperate quest to save her friend, involving the use of a Chronsphere which will allow her to see her friends – and enemies – at different points of their lives.
PROSPECTS: Back in 2010 this was a huge hit for Disney and given the eye candy in the trailer and that much of the original cast has returned, there’s no reason to believe this won’t be too.
OBSTACLES: Tim Burton is only on board as a producer this time around and the competition might be a little too much to overcome.
FACTOID: Alan Rickman’s final film although he doesn’t appear onscreen; he passed away four months after shooting was completed.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

RELEASE DATE: May 27, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Rose Byrne, Olivia Munn
STORY: The most powerful mutant in history has awakened and he doesn’t like what he sees. Determined to re-make the world in his own image he stirs up a war between mutants with only Professor Xavier’s X-Men standing in the way of a massacre of global proportions.
PROSPECTS: The latest X-Men trilogy has been both a critical and commercial success. The comic book Apocalypse storyline is one of the most successful in the history of that storied franchise.
OBSTACLES: As always, oversaturation of comic book movies.
FACTOID: The movie will take place in 1983, making this the third straight X-Men film that takes place in a different decade.

ALTERNATE CHOICE

MAGGIE’S PLAN

RELEASE DATE: May 20, 2016
STUDIO: Sony Classics
GENRE: Dramedy
STARRING: Greta Gerwig, Travis Fimmel, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke, Bill Hader, Wallace Shawn, Maya Rudolph, Kathleen Hanna
STORY: A young girl’s determination to have a baby on her own changed drastically when she falls in love with a married man, compromising his marriage.
PROSPECTS: Stellar cast including indie darling Gerwig should make this an indie standout.
OBSTACLES: Sounds like another typical Gerwig role, which her audiences may be tiring of.
FACTOID: This is director Rebecca Miller’s first film since 2009’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.

OTHER CHOICES

May 6, 2016

A BIGGER SPLASH (Fox Searchlight) stars Tilda Swinton as an international rock star recuperating on a Mediterranean island with her partner when their reverie is interrupted by the arrival than a larger-than-life producer (who happens to be an ex-lover of the rock star) and his daughter as nostalgia and desire threaten the relationship of the rock star and her man. This is opening up in limited release. Also opening in limited release is DARK HORSE (Sony Classics), a documentary about a group a group of working class blokes who decide to buy themselves a racehorse, entering a realm which has almost exclusively belonged to the very wealthy up until now.

May 13, 2016

THE DARKNESS (High Top/Blumhouse) stars Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell as the parents in a family just returning home from a family vacation to the Grand Canyon with an unwanted souvenir – a mysterious demonic force that preys on their darkest fears. HIGH-RISE (A24) is the first of three Florida Film Festival features debuting this week; this limited release, based on a J.G. Ballard novel, the residents of a luxury high rise find their social order breaking down as flaws in the building’s design and numerous power outages show that their high end dwelling may not be so high end after all. KIDNAP (Relativity) features Halle Berry as a mother whose son is kidnapped. As the situation grows more desperate, she mounts a rescue operation that proves that the worst possible thing you can do is come between a mother and her child. LAST DAYS IN THE DESERT (Broad Green) is a reimagined version of the encounter between Jesus and the Devil in the desert; Ewan McGregor plays both roles in this limited release. THE LOBSTER (A24) which was the opening night film at this year’s FFF, stars Colin Farrell as a man recently dumped by his wife who must now find a true love within 45 days or be turned into an animal and be released into the wild; this has been a hit on the festival circuit having won several prestigious awards. LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP (Roadside Attractions) which opens in limited release (and was also featured at this year’s Florida Film Festival) has a beautiful young widow of the titled class trying to find a husband for herself to ensure her daughter’s future, but runs into complications when she attracts the attention of several young men whose eligibility varies greatly.

May 20, 2016

Opening in limited release, HARD SELL (Momentum) is a teen dramedy about a high school student, struggling to help his ailing dog and his long-suffering mother who forms an unexpected friendship with a runaway. THE NICE GUYS (Warner Brothers) is a Shane Black-directed mystery/comedy set in the ‘70s starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as an enforcer and a detective respectively teaming up to find a missing girl who may have witnessed a mob hit.

May 27, 2016

PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW (Magnolia), another entry at this year’s Florida Film Festival, is a documentary opening in limited release about a YouTube wanna-be sensation whose secret admirer all the way from Israel may turn her story into a happy ending after all.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $250 Million. Domestic Gross: $459.0M Total: $1.405B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $153.6M Total: $378.4M Verdict: Made Money.
TOMORROWLAND (Disney) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $93.4M Total: $209.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
SAN ANDREAS (New Line) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $155.2M Total: $473.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $12.2M Total: $30.2M. Verdict: Likely Hit
PITCH PERFECT 2 (Universal) Budget: $29M. Domestic Gross: $184.3M Total: $287.5M Verdict: Blockbuster
ALOHA (Columbia) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $21.1M Total: $26.3M Verdict: Flop.
POLTERGEIST (MGM/Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $47.4M Total: $95.4M Verdict: Made Money.
HOT PURSUIT (New Line) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $34.6M Total: $51.7 Verdict: Lost Money.
SLOW WEST (A24) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $229,094 Total: $229,094. Verdict: Likely Lost Money.

JUNE

Now that school is out and the May blockbusters are dominating the box office, in come the June contenders to make their own golden impressions. A new Pixar film bringing one of their beloved characters back, one of the most successful videogame franchises gets a live action cinematic go, the return of one of the most iconic alien invasion films of all time in a sequel three decades after the fact, an spy comedy teaming one of the hottest comedians in the world with one of the most popular action stars and the sequel to a hit supernatural horror film..

Finding Dory

FIRST CHOICE

FINDING DORY

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2016
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Idris Elba, Bill Hader, Michael Sheen, Dominic West, Ed O’Neill, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell
STORY: Dory, the forgetful Angelfish who aided Marlin in his quest to find his son Nemo, suddenly has remembered something – that she has a family. Nemo and Marlin are determined to help her find her family again, but a long and dangerous journey awaits them if Dory is to reunite with her family.
PROSPECTS: One of Pixar’s all-time most popular films is finally getting a sequel, particularly since DeGeneres has been publicly lobbying for one for years. With DeGeneres pimping the movie on her insanely popular daytime talk show, plus the built-in audience any Pixar film has with families anyway this should be the runaway family film box office champ this summer.
OBSTACLES: Many of the target audience for the movie were not even born when Finding Nemo was released and those that loved it may have grown out of animated features by now.
FACTOID: This is the third Disney film this year to have Idris Elba supplying his voice without appearing onscreen.

SECOND CHOICE

THE CONJURING 2

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2016
STUDIO: New Line
GENRE: Horror
STARRING: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Franka Potente, Frances O’Connor, David Thewlis, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Javier Botet, Sterling Jerins, Simon McBurney
STORY: The sequel to the blockbuster horror hit finds Ed and Lorraine Warren traveling to England to take on a supernatural threat that has put a single mum and her four children at risk.
PROSPECTS: The Conjuring was one of the most critically acclaimed horror hits of recent years, having already spawned a spin-off franchise. .
OBSTACLES: Horror films seem to do better at the end of the summer rather than at its beginning. The original was also released in October, a time more conducive to scary movies.
FACTOID: Director James Wan turned down a ton of money to direct Furious 8 in order to return to his horror roots.

WARCRAFT

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2016
STUDIO: Universal/Legendary
GENRE: Fantasy
STARRING: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Clancy Brown, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ruth Negga, Callum Keith Rennie
STORY: An ancient evil threatens the peace of a world filled with magic and monsters. In order to save their race, the Orcs must seek the help of their hated enemy the humans. But will it be enough?
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular videogames of all time hits the big screen in all its glory. Worlds of Warcraft has millions of players around the world addicted to their game. Director Duncan Jones is a genuine talent who might make that big splash everyone has been expecting here.
OBSTACLES: Videogames have, with rare exceptions, tanked both critically and commercially. The trailer didn’t make me any more hopeful that this would be one of those exceptions.
FACTOID: The movie was originally set to be released this past December but was moved to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE

RELEASE DATE: June 17, 2016
STUDIO: New Line
GENRE: Action Comedy
STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Aaron Paul, Amy Ryan, Megan Park, Danielle Nicolet, Slaine, Ryan Hansen, Brett Azar
STORY: A mild-mannered accountant, missing the glory years of his “BMOC” days in high school, meets up with the most bullied boy in school – who is now a hunk who claims to be a spy. Quite against his will, the accountant gets drawn into the dangerous world of espionage by a man who may or may not be completely insane.
PROSPECTS: This is the kind of movie that tends to do well in the summer. Hart is the hottest comic actor on in Hollywood and Johnson one of the hottest action stars. The trailer got a ton of laughs.
OBSTACLES: Buddy cop movies have been on the downswing and the spy market has been oversaturated lately.
FACTOID: Johnson is exactly a foot taller than Hart.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE

RELEASE DATE: June 24, 2016
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
GENRE: Science Fiction
STARRING: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox, Sela Ward, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Maika Monroe, Joey King
STORY: The war of 1996 was won and while heroes have fallen, the technology that was looted from the alien invaders was supposed to protect the planet. Now 20 years later, they’ve come back and if we’ve had 20 years to prepare, so have they…
PROSPECTS: One of the most beloved films of the 90s, this sci-fi action epic really set the bar for alien invasion films for the 20 intervening years.
OBSTACLES: 20 years is a long time between films and since this originally came out, alien invasion movies have fallen out of favor.
FACTOID: This is the first sequel that director Roland Emmerich has made.

ALTERNATE CHOICE

FREE STATE OF JONES

RELEASE DATE: June 24, 2016
STUDIO: STX Entertainment
GENRE: Historical Drama
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Keri Russell, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Sean Bridgers, Jacob Lofland, Christopher Berry
STORY: During the Civil War, Confederate deserters, no longer wishing to fight so that slave owners could remain wealthy, returned to Jones County in Mississippi to create a slavery-free state, seceding from the Confederacy. And yes, this actually happened.
PROSPECTS: McConaughey is one of the biggest stars extant, having been on a roll lately.
OBSTACLES: This isn’t what you’d call a high-profile project and Civil War films as of late haven’t been very popular..
FACTOID: One of the extras in the film is a descendant of the main character in the story.

OTHER CHOICES

June 3, 2016

In ME BEFORE YOU (Warner Brothers) a plucky young English woman takes a job as caregiver to a wealthy man who has given up on life; her infectious attitude changes his mind – and his heart. POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING (Universal) comes to us from the maniacs at The Lonely Island, the acclaimed Internet comedy source. A humongously popular rapper sees his sophomore album tank, leaving everyone around him wondering what they’re going to do now that they’ve hitched their wagon to a man who is no longer the Dopest Star in Rap. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (Paramount) is the sequel to the Michael Bay-produced reboot of the seminal comic book adaptation and brings to the screen villains and characters from the book that have never had live action versions before.

June 10, 2016

GENIUS (Roadside Attractions) which opens is set during one of the most exciting periods in the history of literature. It details the relationship between Editor Max Perkins and his mercurial but undoubted genius client Thomas Wolfe. Colin Firth and Jude Law play the two protagonists, respectively. NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (Summit) reunites Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Dave Franco (with Lizzy Caplan subbing for Isla Fisher) as the Four Horsemen, magicians and con-men who are facing a tech magnate who is holding one of their most dangerous secrets over their heads; it is up to them to turn the tables and find out who is really behind their dilemma.

June 17, 2016

CLOWN (Dimension) is a horror film about a devoted father who puts on a clown costume to entertain his son when the clown they hired for his birthday party is a no-show. But when the father is unable to remove the costume, he realizes that what he has donned is demonic…and it is changing him slowly into a creature that threatens the lives of those he loves most. SWISS ARMY MAN (A24) is a strange and magical film starring Paul Dano as a man marooned on an island who finds the body of Daniel Radcliffe washed up to shore. The corpse proves to be more lively than most and takes the castaway on a fantastic journey that looks like it could well be the most imaginative movie of the summer.

June 24, 2016

Opening in limited release, EAT THAT QUESTION: FRANK ZAPPA IN HIS OWN WORDS (Sony Classics) utilizes archival footage, rare performance video and rarely seen interviews to allow one of the most eclectic and influential musicians of his time tell his own story. THE SHALLOWS (Columbia) stars Blake Lively as a surfer who gets stranded on a shallow sandbar 200 yards from shore by a great white shark.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

JURASSIC WORLD (Universal) Budget: $150 Million. Domestic Gross: $652.3M Total: $1.7 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $52.2M Total: $113.0M. Verdict: Big Hit.
INSIDE OUT (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $175M. Domestic Gross: $356.5M Total: $856.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
TED 2 (Universal) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $81.5M Total: $216.7M Verdict: Made Money.
LOVE AND MERCY (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $12.6M Total: $28.6M Verdict: Likely Hit.
DOPE (Open Road) Budget: $7M. Domestic Gross: $17.5M Total: $18.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ENTOURAGE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $32.4M Total: $49.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
SPY (20th Century Fox) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $110.8M Total: $235.7M Verdict: Hit.
MAX (Warner Brothers) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $42.7M Total: $44.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $6.8M Total: $9.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
INFINITELY POLAR BEAR (Sony Classics) Budget: $6.7M. Domestic Gross: $1.4M Total: $1.4M Verdict: Flop.

JULY

The summer continues to heat up as one of the most iconic movies of the 80s is rebooted, popular sci-fi and spy film franchises are continued, a beloved children’s book is brought to life by Steven Spielberg, one of the most iconic pulp fiction characters returns to the big screen and a recent franchise with political overtones adds another installment to its thus-far successful run.

Ghostbusters

FIRST CHOICE

GHOSTBUSTERS

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
GENRE: Horror Comedy
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Wiig, Bill Murray, Kate McKinnon, Sigourney Weaver, Elizabeth Perkins, Andy Garcia, Charles Dance
STORY: A trio of paranormal scientists is investigating an upsurge in paranormal activity in New York City. They discover that someone has developed a machine that amplifies paranormal energy. So who ya gonna call?
PROSPECTS: Some of the most popular comic actors in the business are involved, as well as the director of some of McCarthy’s biggest hits (including last summer’s Spy). This is one of the most beloved movies of its era and resonates with a very large segment of the public.
OBSTACLES: Going with an all-female Ghostbusters team has outraged some of the fanboys, which might be counted as a good thing. Also, the original is over 32 years old, which is a very long time for a continuation.
FACTOID: In Ghostbusters II a psychic predicted the world would end on February 14, 2016. Fortunately, it didn’t, allowing the sequel (although it is being pitched as a reboot) to be released five months and a day afterwards.

SECOND CHOICE

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN

RELEASE DATE: July 1, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
GENRE: Adventure
STARRING: Margot Robbie, Alexander Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Ella Purnell, John Hurt, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent
STORY: Years after ruling the jungle as Tarzan, he has returned to England to live as Lord John Greystoke with his wife Jane. However, the machinations of an enemy bring him back to Africa, and when the murderous plot is revealed, those behind it don’t realize they’ve unleashed the Lord of the Jungle.
PROSPECTS: Tarzan is a timeless hero, known to virtually everyone. His exploits bring back a much simpler time to mind.
OBSTACLES: This kind of pulp hero has largely fallen out of favor. A big budget movie might not necessarily be the way to kickstart the genre.
FACTOID: This is the last film produced by Jerry Weintraub who passed away last July.

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS

RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Albert Brooks, Lake Bell, Jenny Slate, Ellie Kemper, Eric Stonestreet, Hannibal Buress, Dana Carvey, Steve Coogan
STORY: Max, a terrier certain that he is the apple of his owner’s eye, is disconcerted when she brings home Duke, a big sloppy mess of a dog. The two don’t get along well but when they find themselves alone on the streets of New York and the only two able to thwart the plans of a mad rabbit to unite ex-pets against humanity, they’ll have to work together…or miss supper.
PROSPECTS: From the same humans who made Despicable Me, Universal has been pimping the heck out of this as the summer’s potential biggest non-Pixar hit.
OBSTACLES: Comes out only three weeks after Finding Dory so there may be some overlap. Also this doesn’t have any familiar characters in it which makes it a tougher sell to the kiddies.
FACTOID: The song played on the stereo by the white poodle in the trailer is “Bounce” by System of a Down.

STAR TREK BEYOND

RELEASE DATE: July 22, 2016
STUDIO: Paramount
GENRE: Science Fiction
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Deep Roy
STORY: Kirk and the U.S.S. Enterprise are attacked by a strange swarm of fighter ships, destroying their starship and marooning them on a desolate world. At least, that’s what the trailer hints at – for the moment there has been no plot details released.
PROSPECTS: The reboot of the series has been one of the most successful ever and the powers-that-be at Paramount have made sure not to oversaturate the market with TV shows and other Trek product (although a TV show is on the way this fall).
OBSTACLES: Director J.J. Abrams has moved on to that “other” science fiction franchise, leaving the franchise in the hands of someone more known for earthbound action films. There has been some whispers that Paramount isn’t entirely happy with the film and gave it no push whatsoever at the recent CinemaCon for theater owners.
FACTOID: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise.

JASON BOURNE

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2016
STUDIO: Universal
GENRE: Spy Action
STARRING: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed, Ato Essandoh
STORY: The worst possible thing has happened; Jason Bourne has begun to remember his past. Fearing the worst, the powers that be want to take him out but as we all know that’s no easy task.
PROSPECTS: The Bourne franchise has redefined the espionage genre for the 21st century. With Paul Greengrass and Damon back aboard, there should be plenty of firepower for box office gold.
OBSTACLES: It has been almost ten years since the last Bourne movie with Damon and the younger audience may not be as excited for him to come back.
FACTOID: It was assumed that the title was going to be The Bourne Betrayal following the books in the John Le Carre series but when the teaser trailer was released the title had been changed.

ALTERNATE CHOICE

EQUITY

RELEASE DATE: July 29, 2016
STUDIO: Sony Classics
GENRE: Drama
STARRING: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner, Craig Bierko, Margaret Colin, Nate Corddry, Nick Gehlfuss, Carrie Preston
STORY: A woman in the very male world of investment banking gets caught up in a controversial IPO in which ethical violations may have occurred. As betrayal and deception begin to cause her world to unravel, she begins to question her ambitions in this taut drama.
PROSPECTS: A very rare view of women in high finance, a viewpoint rarely seen in the movies.
OBSTACLES: Traditionally, movies depicting finance rarely do well (with a few exceptions) at the box office.
FACTOID: This is the first ever female-driven Wall Street film.

OTHER CHOICES

July 1, 2016

BUDDYMOON (Gravitas), opening in limited release, stars Grimm’s David Giuntoli as a man left at the altar. His German friend Flula Borg convinces him to take the honeymoon/camping trip he’d already paid for and as both of them are thoroughly unsuited for the wilderness, makes for an interesting week. This played at the 2016 Florida Film Festival. THE BFG (Disney) is a live action version of a beloved children’s book directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. In the classic Roald Dahl tale, a young English girl is befriended by a gentle giant and taken to the Land of Giants. EQUALS (A24) is a sci-fi film starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult as a couple, in a dystopian future in which emotion has been genetically engineered out of the human race, suddenly falls in love. OUR KIND OF TRAITOR (Roadside Attractions) which opens in limited release, is an adaptation of a John Le Carre novel about an English couple, vacationing in Antigua, who get involved with a Russian mobster looking to defect. THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (Universal) is the third installment in the franchise, with this time a Senator and her bodyguard forced onto the streets on Purge night trying to survive not only the usual array of unholy terrors but also being the targets of a government that wants to stop her from convincing the public and Congress to bring the Purge itself to an end.

July 8, 2016

Opening in limited release, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (Bleecker Street) stars Viggo Mortensen as a father who has raised his six kids in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, but is forced to bring them into the “real world,” with not always predictable consequences. In MIKE AND DAVE NEED WEDDING DATES (20th Century Fox), Zac Efron and Adam DeVine play a couple of brothers who always, in their exuberance, ruin every family get-together. With their sister about to get married, their father orders them to bring dates who will calm down their outrageous tendencies; however, the girls they do bring (Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick) are, unbeknownst to themselves, every bit as wild as themselves. OUR LITTLE SISTER (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release is a Japanese film about three sisters who, traveling to their estranged father’s funeral in the countryside, meet their shy half-sister and impulsively invite her to live with them.

July 15, 2016

THE INFILTRATOR (Broad Green) stars Bryan Cranston in the true story of the undercover drug enforcement agent who went deep undercover in Pablo Escobar’s cartel and facilitated the largest drug bust in U.S. history. PHANTOM BOY (GKIDS), which played at the Florida Film Festival, is about a young boy with powers who helps a skeptical detective solve a big case. This animated feature is opening in limited release.

July 22, 2016

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE (Fox Searchlight) brings the cast of the hit British sitcom to the silver screen in limited release. Just remember: no smoking in the theater. In ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE (20th Century Fox) Skrat’s obsessive quest for the elusive acorn sends a large chunk of space rock headed directly for Earth, which means that Manny and his friends will have to find a new home. INTO THE FOREST (A24) is the story of two sisters struggling to survive after the collapse of society. Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood both star. LIGHTS OUT (New Line) is about a woman whose visions after dark threatened her sanity as a girl, but she returns home when her younger brother starts seeing the same things – which may not be hallucinations.

July 29, 2016

In BAD MOMS (STX) a mom who is all about her family gets pushed beyond the breaking point and decides to teach the Alpha moms, her high-maintenance kids, her milquetoast husband and his idiot of a boss a lesson. INDIGNATION (Roadside Attractions), opening in limited release, stars Logan Lerman as a young man in 1951 who goes to a conservative college in Ohio and encounters Antisemitism and sexual repression.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ANT-MAN (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $180.2M Total: $519.5M. Verdict: Big Hit.
TERMINATOR: GENISYS (Paramount) Budget: $155M. Domestic Gross: $89.8M Total: $440.6M Verdict: Hit.
MAGIC MIKE XXL (Warner Brothers) Budget: $14.8M. Domestic Gross: $66.0M Total: $122.5M Verdict: Big Hit,
MINIONS (Universal) Budget: $74M. Domestic Gross: $336.1M Total: $1.2B Verdict: Blockbuster.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION (Paramount) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $195.0M Total: $682.3M Verdict: Big Hit
MR. HOLMES (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $29.4M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
TRAINWRECK (Universal) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $110.2M Total: $140.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
PIXELS (Columbia) Budget: $88M Domestic Gross: $78.8M Total: $243.6M Verdict: Made Money.
THE GALLOWS (New Line) Budget: $100K. Domestic Gross: $22.7M Total: $43.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
PAPER TOWN (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $32.0M Total: $85.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE GIFT (STX) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $43.8M Total: $59.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
SELF/LESS (Focus) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $12.3M. Total: $30.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
SOUTHPAW (Weinstein) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $52.4M. Total: $91.7M Verdict: Hit.
VACATION (New Line) Budget: $31M. Domestic Gross: $58.9M. Total: $104.9M Verdict: Hit.
THE END OF THE TOUR (A24) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $16.2M. Total: $63.5M Verdict: Big Hit.

AUGUST

As summer winds down to an end there are usually one or two blockbusters left up Hollywood’s sleeve. Smart money is on the irreverent superhero tale about a team of villains, a reboot of a less familiar children’s movie from a bygone age, an anime about a Japanese folk tale and a remake of a classic swords and sandals epic.

Suicide Squad

FIRST CHOICE

SUICIDE SQUAD

RELEASE DATE: August 5, 2016
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
GENRE: Superhero
STARRING: Will Smith, Margo Robbie, Jared Leto, Ben Affleck, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney, Viola Davis, Adam Beach, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
STORY: Facing an insurmountable threat, a secret government agency proposes to send super-powered criminals up against it, a group of expendables who are promised freedom if they survive and death if they run. It might be another day at the office for the Justice League but for these guys it’s suicide.
PROSPECTS: Deadpool was an enormous success and this one seems to have a similar tone and irreverence. It could turn out to be one of the summer’s left field hits.
OBSTACLES: DC still continues to struggle with their cinematic universe, despite big numbers for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It needs an unqualified success that doesn’t revolve around Batman (although the Dark Knight does appear here).
FACTOID: Affleck is the first actor to play a cinematic Batman under two different directors. He is also the first to appear as Batman in two different films to be released in the same year.

SECOND CHOICE

PETE’S DRAGON

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2016
STUDIO: Disney
GENRE: Family
STARRING: Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban, Wes Bentley, Oakes Fegley, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Oona Laurence, Craig Hall
STORY: An orphaned boy is found in the forest; he had survived there, alone, for six years. Except he wasn’t alone; he had the help of his best friend – a living, breathing dragon. Now he is back in civilization, a different kind of wilderness. But his dragon is not about to let him tackle that forest alone.
PROSPECTS: Disney has been on a roll lately, with their animation division continuing to do gangbusters but also their live action films based on theme park attractions, animated classics and children’s books.
OBSTACLES: Pete’s Dragon isn’t exactly the most beloved or well-known of Disney properties and it likely isn’t going to resonate with kids or their parents in the same way that, say, Maleficent did.
FACTOID: Michael C. Hall (Dexter) was originally cast in the role now filled by Karl Urban.

SAUSAGE PARTY

RELEASE DATE: August 12, 2016
STUDIO: Columbia
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: James Franco, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Salma Hayek, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Bill Hader
STORY: After falling out of a shopping cart, a sausage and his friends make a dangerous journey to get back to their aisles before the 4th of July sale begins; but when they discover the truth of their existence, will they want to get there?
PROSPECTS: A truly all-star cast of comic actors, SNL veterans and comedians make this one to keep an eye out for if you’re a comedy fan.
OBSTACLES: This raunchy animated feature is definitely not for kids, so the question is will adults want to go see a cartoon?
FACTOID: This is the first animated film to be written by Seth Rogen.

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

RELEASE DATE: August 19, 2016
STUDIO: Focus
GENRE: Animated Feature
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Art Parkinson, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, George Takei
STORY: A young boy named Kubo in a fantasy feudal Japan accidentally unleashes an ancient spirit with a vendetta against his family. On the run with only his magical music instrument and two friends to guide him, he must battle Gods and monsters if he is to save his family.
PROSPECTS: The LAIKA animation studio has consistently put out quality product that has progressively gotten more popular.
OBSTACLES: LAIKA still hasn’t had an out of the box hit yet, and this anime-style feature will have a tough time being the first.
FACTOID: The song that Kubo plays in the trailer is the Beatles’ classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

ALTERNATE CHOICE

THE FOUNDER

RELEASE DATE: August 5, 2016
STUDIO: Weinstein
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STARRING: Michael Keaton, Patrick Wilson, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, B.J. Novak, Kimberly Battista
STORY: Salesman Ray Kroc sees potential in a restaurant that serves burgers at a phenomenal rate. He sees potential and maneuvers himself to steal the company from the men who started it – the McDonald brothers.
PROSPECTS: Keaton has been nominated for an Oscar the last two years in a row; this might make it three straight, if the buzz is correct.
OBSTACLES: Does anyone really want to see a movie about how McDonald’s came to be?
FACTOID: The Coen Brothers initially expressed interest in directing the film but were unable to make it work due to conflicts with the filming of Hail, Caesar.

OTHER CHOICES

August 5, 2016

In NINE LIVES (EuropaCorp/Relativity) a workaholic dad becomes trapped in the body of a cat and is adopted by his own family, learning to see them in a new and unexpected light.

August 12, 2016

CAFE SOCIETY (Amazon) is the latest from Woody Allen and stars Jesse Eisenberg as a young starry-eyed man who comes to Hollywood in the 1930s to make it in the film industry, but finds love, heartache and some really good cafes instead. FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (Paramount) is the true story of the woman whose life was fictionalized in Marguerite – a society matron who was convinced she was an opera diva but truly couldn’t sing a note. THE HOLLARS (Sony Classics) which opens in limited release is the directorial debut of star John Krasinski as a New York City artist forced to go home to his Midwestern small town when his mother falls ill and finds himself sucked in to the same small town drama that sent him scurrying away to the big city in the first place. SPECTRAL (Universal/Legendary) follows a special Ops team trying to take down an unknown enemy – who may not be of this world.

August 19, 2016

BEN-HUR (MGM/Paramount) is a remake of a classic movie that follows the tale of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish noble who is betrayed by his Roman friend and sentenced to be a galley slave. Bent on revenge, he finds redemption through a gentle Nazarene and vindication in a chariot race. SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU (Miramax) is the story of our current First Lady and how she met an idealistic young man who persistently wooed her during the summer of 1989 – a young man named Barack Obama. This is opening in limited release. THE SPACE BETWEEN US (STX) is a young adult sci-fi story about a 16-year-old boy who was the first human born on Mars, coming back to Earth to try and piece together who is father was. WAR DOGS (Warner Brothers) stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as a pair of businessmen who exploit a loophole that allows small businesses to supply the U.S. Military and end up wait over their heads. This is based on a true story.

August 26, 2016

In DON’T BREATHE (Screen Gems/Ghost House) a group of young kids break into a blind man’s house, thinking it will be easy to take his stuff and get away with it. They’re dead wrong. HANDS OF STONE (Weinstein) is the story of boxer Roberto Duran, one of the most lethal punchers in the history of the sport who was on top of his career when he suddenly and mysteriously stopped boxing in mid-match against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980, famously saying “No mas.” In MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (Summit) Arthur Bishop thought he’d left the assassination game forever, but is reluctantly brought back in to do a virtually impossible task; to take out some of the most dangerous men in the world.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

FANTASTIC FOUR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $56.1M Total: $168.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Brothers) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $45.4M Total: $109.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
SINISTER 2 (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $27.7M Total: $52.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
HITMAN: AGENT 47 (20th Century Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $22.5M Total: $82.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $161.2M Total: $201.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
RICKI AND THE FLASH (TriStar) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $26.8M Total: $40.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE (Lionsgate) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $19.4M Total: $83.5M Verdict: Hit.

That brings us to the end of this year’s summer preview. Hope you enjoyed it and found a few new movies to look forward to once school lets out. As usual, the caveat here is that the scheduled release dates are always subject to change, and it is likely that within a week or two of this being published there will be date changes, schedule shuffling or the outright removal of some films to be quietly released direct to home video months or even years from now. Until then, you can find out more about the movies in question and when they’ll be out near you by reading our Weekly Previews and monthly Pick of the Litter series for independent film picks. But the year isn’t over at summer’s end; there’s still a whole bunch of movies coming this fall and Cinema365 will be on it with our Fall/Holiday preview at the end of August. You can expect to see previews of films like the first stand-alone Star Wars film, the first in a new trilogy of films set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, a Marvel film exploring the mystical side of the MCU, the cinematic returns of Bridget Jones, Jack Reacher and Robert Langdon, and much more. So until then, the multiplex awaits; grab your popcorn and ice cold soda, and settle down in the dark, air-conditioned movie palace of your desire. We’ll save a seat for you.