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.

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Ted


Ted

When W.C. Fields said never act with children or animals, he couldn’t possibly have had Ted in mind.

(2012) Comedy (Universal) Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Seth MacFarlane (voice), Patrick Warburton, Jessica Barth, Laura Vandervoort, Sam J. Jones, Joel McHale, Matt Walsh, Norah Jones, Bill Smitrovich, Patrick Stewart (narrator), Tom Skerritt. Directed by Seth MacFarlane

 

Wishes can be tricky things. We may think we want something, but we rarely think through the consequences of actually getting it. We are so rarely prepared to get exactly what we want.

Young John Bennett is a lonely, outcast little boy in the suburbs of Boston. He’s so despised by the kids of his neighborhood that even the Jewish kids undergoing a beating from the other kids in the neighborhood don’t want him to join in. One Christmas he gets a Teddy Bear the size of a toddler, one who says “I love you” whenever you press the right button; well, the only button. John is enchanted. He loves his new friend – he just wishes that his new friend were real and would be his friend forever. Lo and behold, he gets his wish.

Of course, that takes the world by surprise. After all, who the hell gets their wishes to come true? Ted (MacFarlane) becomes a minor celebrity, appearing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (and cracking him up). But much like all celebrity, it fades – ask Corey Feldman and soon life turns back to normal for the kid and his living teddy bear.

Flash forward to 2012. John (Wahlberg) is 35 now, still living with Ted but also living with Lori Collins (Kunis), his super-hottie of a girlfriend. She’s a VP at a marketing firm; he works the counter at a rental car agency (I’d love to find out the story of how the two hooked up, but it’s not in this movie). They’ve been going together for four years and she’s ready to move on to the next step but John is in no hurry. Besides, he’s still spending as much time doing weed and drinking beer with Ted.

This doesn’t sit well with Lori who wants more of a boyfriend than an ambition-challenged slacker with a teddy bear. She’s had to fend off the advances of her boss (McHale) and defend him to all and sundry and at last it’s time for Ted to go. Reluctantly, John tells his bear to go and although Ted isn’t happy about it, he makes the best of it, getting a job at the local grocery store and banging the attractive check-out clerk Tami-Lynn (Barth) on the produce pile in the back for kickers.

Still, even that doesn’t seem to motivate John to grow up, blowing off an important event for Lori to go party with their idol Sam J. Jones – Flash Gordon himself, playing himself – at Ted’s new apartment. That night goes terribly wrong and Lori and John split up. John realizes how much he loves Lori and Ted realizes he’s gone too far. They’ll both do whatever it takes to save the relationship, but there’s a creepy dad named Donnie (Ribisi) trying to get Ted for his son – and he’ll do anything it takes to get the living teddy bear all to himself.

MacFarlane is best-known for creating “Family Guy,” “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show” among others. His humor tends to push the boundaries of television and given the lack of broadcast standards here, he goes whole hog for some of the most disgusting humor imaginable. If you ever wondered what “Family Guy” would look like on HBO, ponder no more. He even pulls out references to characters from the show – Ted’s go at a posh British accent sounds uncannily like Stewie and he snorts at one point “What do I sound like, Peter Griffith?” Well, as a matter of fact, no.

Wahlberg is a master at portraying a basically nice guy at heart with rough edges. John isn’t a bad guy, really – he’s just immature. The trouble is, he’s 35 and his girlfriend has no desire to be with an adolescent. She, understandably wants a man – and if you look like Mila Kunis as Lori does, you pretty much get what you want. And Lori does, sorta.

And that’s the beauty of the movie. Yeah, the plot is kinda generic but MacFarlane goes about it in a pretty roundabout way. He pushes the humor way way way over the line without missing a beat, and throws in a ton of pop culture references. He throws in some characters that are kind of outside of the box, a good deal of affectionate ribbing in the general direction of Boston and voila! A summer movie that may cure the summer comedy doldrums. For those who are really missing a Judd Apatow film or one of the Hangover movies, here is the movie to go see.

REASONS TO GO: One of the funniest comedies thus far this year. MacFarlane milks every joke for all its worth.

REASONS TO STAY: May make some feel like they’ve spent two hours in the gutter.

FAMILY VALUES: There is quite a bit of crude content (albeit very funny) as well as plenty of foul language, not to mention a fair amount of drug use and plenty of smoking.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: While a variety of teddy bears were used for stand-ins on-set, Ted’s movements were performed by MacFarlane as motion capture.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/9/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 69% positive reviews. Metacritic: 62/100. The reviews are kinda mixed but more towards the positive side.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Harvey

TRASH TALK LOVERS: Few cities produce as many great trash talkers as Boston does and we get to see – and hear – some gems.

FINAL RATING: 7.5/10

NEXT: Big Stan

New Releases for the Week of June 29, 2012


June 29, 2012

MAGIC MIKE

(Warner Brothers) Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Olivia Munn, Matt Bomer, Riley Keough, Kevin Nash, Gabriel Iglesias. Directed by Steven Soderbergh

In the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is an icon. When a new man comes on board, Magic Mike acts as his mentor, schooling him in the art of moves, partying, picking up women and living the easy life. However, Mike wants more and when he meets a woman that might just give him that, he finds himself at a crossroads. This is inspired by Tatum’s pre-acting career as an exotic male dancer.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: R (for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use)

People Like Us

(DreamWorks) Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Pfeiffer. A man drowning deeply in debt thinks he may have found the way out when his father passes away, leaving a significant estate. However, he finds out that he is not only getting none of it but he must deliver more than enough cash to save him to a sister he never knew he had. This is based on a true story and marks the directing debut of “Lost” producer and writer Alex Kurtzman.

See the trailer, a clip and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for language, some drug use and brief sexuality)

Ted

(Universal) Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane (voice), Giovanni Ribisi. When a boy wishes his teddy bear would come to life, powerful magic is invoked and a miracle happens. However in a tale of be careful what you wish for, the bear refuses to go away and sticks with the boy as he grows to be a man, much to the chagrin of the girlfriend and everyone else around him.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use)

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection

(Lionsgate) Tyler Perry, Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, Doris Roberts. When a Wall Street executive enters a federal witness protection program to blow the lid off a Mob-backed Ponzi scheme, the FBI decides to stow him in the most likely place of all – Madea’s home. The next sound you hear may be this long-time franchise jumping the shark.

See the trailer and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Urban Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for some crude sexual remarks and brief drug references)

2012 Summer Movie Preview


There was reason for optimism last year. The summer movie line-up on paper looked to be as strong as has ever been offered in the multiplexes in recent memory, maybe ever. Studio accountants looked forward to a strong and profitable summer.

Instead, the continuing erosion of box office numbers went on unabated. Other than established franchises (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II) there was little joy at the box office as most of the movies underperformed. While Marvel Comics films did solid numbers, the highly anticipated Green Lantern failed to be the mega-blockbuster that would pave the way for an explosion of DC comic characters onscreen that Iron Man had been.

However, this year is a different story. The box office has been on the upswing, buoyed by hits like The Hunger Games and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. There is another strong line-up waiting for us in theaters, and quite frankly the quality looks to be a little bit better in general than last year. Hopefully better movies, strong franchises and big stars will help to continue to reverse the trend of box office erosion this summer.

We’ll be seeing old friends return and hopefully discovering a few new ones. Marvel has their first official release under the Disney banner this summer, and will be doing so with a bang – the long-anticipated The Avengers will unite most of the Marvel heroes onscreen in a single movie.

DC Comics will be bringing back Batman as Warner Brothers will present what is expected to be the biggest hit of the summer – The Dark Knight Rises. Columbia Pictures will have a Marvel hero of their own as they reboot their own superhero franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. The same studio will also be bringing back another franchise based on a comic book series as Will Smith dons his familiar suit for Men in Black III.

Ridley Scott will return to the Aliens franchise that helped establish him as a filmmaker in the lavish prequel/not-a-prequel Prometheus. Broadway will be represented as the hit musical Rock of Ages brings it’s star-studded classic rock to the movie theaters. Pixar offers up their first non-sequel animated feature in three years with Brave. Also look to such sequels as Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted, The Expendables 2 and Ice Age: Continental Drift.

It will be a star-studded summer with such luminaries as Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., Will Smith, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Meryl Streep, Christian Bale, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Ben Stiller, Ray Romano, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Colin Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Charlize Theron all making appearances on the silver screen.

For a Premium Rush tell The Dictator on the Battleship just What to Expect When You’re Expecting to see The Apparition haunting The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. After all, you’ve got ParaNorman and Magic Mike exorcising The Possession and no Dark Shadows will faze Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter in the Cold Light of Day.

MAY

The summer season kicks off with the first big blockbusters and runs through the big Memorial Day weekend. Some of the biggest movies of the year are settled here, looking to be the first to get the big summer box office bite and get their season off to a roaring start. May has become Marvel month – nearly every year for the past several, a movie from Marvel Studios featuring one of their comic book icons has come out in May. This year they’ll be joined by movies based on a classic game and a classic soap opera, as well as new films from Sacha Baron Cohen and Oren Peli.

May 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

THE AVENGERS
RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2012
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard
STORY: When the planet is threatened by an alien race led by a vengeful god, the world must turn to the superheroes to protect – and perhaps avenge – them. The trouble is, they don’t all play well together.
PROSPECTS: This movie has been in the pipeline pretty much since the first Iron Man and the anticipation has been building for years. With fan favorite Joss Whedon at the helm, this may well be the ultimate Marvel movie!
OBSTACLES: Having this many characters to deal with may make it more difficult for the audience to connect with any of them.
FACTOID: This is the first Marvel Studios movie to be released by Disney ever since Paramount and Disney agreed to sign the franchise over to Disney, who owns Marvel Comics. Paramount will continue to receive a share of the profits.

SCORCHERS

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, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Stuhlbarg
STORY: Agent J of the MIB comes to work one morning to find the world changed and agent K dead for 40 years. Something has changed in the timeline and it is up to J to go back in time and make it right. However, he will find in the past that Agent K of the 60s hadn’t changed much from the guy who drove him crazy in the 21st century.
PROSPECTS: Will Smith is one of the biggest stars in the world and this is one of the franchises that made him one. Not only will it be a box office smash, HELL YEAH it will be a box office smash!
OBSTACLES: It’s been nearly a decade since the last one; can they recapture the magic?
FACTOID: This is Will Smith’s first movie appearance in three and a half years, the longest he’s gone between films since his film career began in 1993.

DARK SHADOWS
RELEASE DATE: May 11, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley, Eva Green, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Lee, Bella Heathcote
STORY: Barnabas Collins has it all, 18th Century-style. The love of a beautiful woman, wealth, control of a small Maine town – until he is cursed by a witch to be a vampire and then buried alive to await 200 years until he is inadvertently released in 1972. He finds his family fallen upon difficult times – and the same witch waiting for him.
PROSPECTS: Tim Burton, the ultimate cult director. Dark Shadows, the ultimate 60s cult series. The trailer looks amusing and fun.
OBSTACLES: Not many remember the gothic soap opera and those who are fans might just resent the more comic turn.
FACTOID: Cameos from the stars of the original series include Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Selby and Lara Parker.

BATTLESHIP
RELEASE DATE: May 18, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Liam Neeson, Asano Tadanobu, Peter MacNicol, Jesse Plemons
STORY: The Earth is under attack by aliens (again). However the invaders aren’t coming from the stars but from under the sea. Only a group of naval warships on training maneuvers stand in the way of the total annihilation of the human race.
PROSPECTS: Hasbro is also the makers of the Transformers series, which the trailer obviously resembles. People who love that best-selling series are going to go gaga for this one.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have been extremely low in quality and box office performance of late.
FACTOID: This is the feature film acting debut of singer Rihanna.

SUMMER STORM

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
RELEASE DATE: May 4, 2012
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Tena Desae, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle
STORY: An Indian hotel advertises itself as an ideal retreat for retirees wishing to live out their golden years in exotic India turns out to be not quite ready when the first guests show up.
PROSPECTS: Might make some inroads among art house habitués and senior moviegoers, a group often neglected by Hollywood. The trailer also made it look heartwarming and funny.
OBSTACLES: Probably won’t appeal much to younger audiences unless they’re incredibly open-minded.
FACTOID: Tom Wilkinson’s character is named Dashwood; this is the second time he’s played a character with that name (the first being Sense and Sensibility in 1995).

HEAT WAVE

May 4, 2012

LOL (Lionsgate/Mandate), opening in limited release, is concerned with the generation gap which one parent discovers when she reads her daughter’s racy diary. She realizes that she needs to find away to reconnect with her daughter before risking losing her forever. Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus star.

May 11, 2012

WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) is set in a small village in Lebanon, isolated from the rest of the country which is in turmoil between Christian and Muslim factions. The village women have figured out a way to maintain the peace – but that peace is rapidly being threatened by outside forces. I saw this at the recent Florida Film Festival and it’s marvelous, funny and poignant. This is playing in limited release only. TRANSIT (After Dark) is about a camping trip taken by the Slidwell family to reconnect after the father has returned from a tax evasion conviction and imprisonment. He notices that they are being followed which turns from annoyance to terror when it turns out they aren’t being followed so much as hunted. Jim Caviezel stars in this limited release which is one of several being released to theaters that same day from After Dark before moving to home video.

May 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) stars Sacha Baron Cohen as the brutal but inept dictator of an Arab nation who rules his people with an iron fist – but forgot to pack one for his stay in New York City to address the United Nations.

May 18, 2012

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) is based on the best-selling book on pregnancy and stars an all-star ensemble cast including Chris Rock, Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz.

May 25, 2011

CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) is from Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli and like that film stars a cast of mostly unknowns as they are taken for a private tour of Chernobyl. Their fun and games turns deadly when their van breaks down, stranding them in the abandoned nuclear facility and they soon realize they aren’t alone. THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) also opens in limited release and is the story of a wealthy but disabled man and his relationship with his black Muslim caretaker. This was one of last year’s box office champions in France and one more Cinema365 got to see at the Florida Film Festival this year.

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 five 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.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Disney) Budget: $250 Million. Domestic Gross: $241.1M Total: $1.044 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THOR (Paramount/Marvel) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $181.0M Total: $449.3M Verdict: Hit.
THE HANGOVER PART II (Warner Brothers) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $254.5M Total: $581.5M Verdict: Blockbuster.
KUNG FU PANDA 2 (DreamWorks) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $165.3M Total: $665.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE TREE OF LIFE (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $13.3M Total: $54.3M Verdict: Flop.
BRIDESMAIDS (Universal) Budget: $32.5M. Domestic Gross: $169.1M Total: $288.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
PRIEST (Screen Gems) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $29.1M Total: $78.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
SOMETHING BORROWED (Warner Brothers) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $39.1M Total: $60.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
JUMPING THE BROOM (Tri-Star) Budget: $6.6M. Domestic Gross: $37.3M Total: $37.7 Verdict: Hit.

JUNE

June is the lull between Memorial Day and Independence Day. That’s not to say there aren’t big movies released this month – Pixar traditionally releases their movie in June and there are often blockbusters that sneak in but for the most part the big May movies rule the box office roost and this year should be no different. However, we can still look forward to a return to the Alien universe by Ridley Scott, a hit Broadway musical and a new movie from Wanted director Timur Bekmambitov based on a quirky best-seller.

June 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

PROMETHEUS
RELEASE DATE: June 8, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Patrick Wilson, Rafe Spall
STORY: A team of scientists journeys to a distant planet in hopes of discovering the answers to a mystery about the evolution of life on earth – and discover something terrifying that might just signal the end all life.
PROSPECTS: A terrific trailer has helped ratchet up the anticipation for this film, which has been high on the list of must-sees since it was announced. Director Ridley Scott is coy as to whether this is a prequel to Alien, stating only that it’s set in the same universe. Right.
OBSTACLES: No really big stars here to power the movie at the box office, but then again the first Alien didn’t have any either.
FACTOID: Scott tried to keep the use of CGI to a minimum using it mostly in the space travel sequences. Whenever possible, he used practical effects which brought costs down and gave the actors something more concrete to work with.

SCORCHERS

BRAVE
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thomspon, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane
STORY: A feisty, determined young princess in ancient Scotland determines to make her own fate rather than marry someone she doesn’t wish to.
PROSPECTS: A new tale from the minds of Pixar and the first non-sequel release by the studio in three years. Pixar still means quality when it comes to computer animation.
OBSTACLES: Cars 2 performed less than satisfactorily both at the box office and in the critics reviews.
FACTOID: This will be the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist and will be the first Disney princess to come from a Pixar film.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell
STORY: Before he was the 16th President of the United States, Honest Abe was a Slayer. Yeah, his mom was killed by one and all so he went, like, mental. And he was like the first Scooby. Really.
PROSPECTS: Director Timur Bekmambitov has some pretty decent genre cred. The book this is based on was quite popular.
OBSTACLES: The title got plenty of titter at every movie it was screened before, not a good sign.
FACTOID: Robin McLeavy was originally considered for the role of Mary Todd (Lincoln’s eventual wife) before being cast in the role of his mother Nancy Lincoln.

ROCK OF AGES
RELEASE DATE: June 15, 2011
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Julianne Hough, Paul Giamatti, Mary J. Blige, Malin Akerman, Diego Boneta
STORY: A small town girl and city boy meet in a struggling nightclub on the Sunset Strip on the day the world’s biggest rock star is to appear, his appearance causing conservative women’s groups to protest.
PROSPECTS: Based on the Broadway musical featuring classic rock songs from the ’70s and ’80s, the movie has the star power the stage play lacked.
OBSTACLES: While a popular hit on the Great White Way, those don’t always translate well to the multiplex. Also the knock on the play is that the story is kind of trite.
FACTOID: Julianne Hough beat out Taylor Swift for the role of Sherrie.

SUMMER STORM

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
RELEASE DATE: June 22, 2012
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Gillian Jacobs, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, William Petersen
STORY: The world is ending in a few days. No getting out of it – we’re all goners. What do you do with the time you have left? Yeah, it’s a comedy.
PROSPECTS: Carell is one of the most reliable comics there is. The trailer looks funny and bittersweet all at once with a Ricky Gervais-esque quality to it.
OBSTACLES: Not really getting a big push and is smack up against a Pixar release and the anticipated Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
FACTOID: The production company is Indian Paintbrush, which is another name for the butterfly weed.

HEAT WAVE

June 1, 2012

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) is a reimagining of the fairy tale, showing the Queen to be a supernatural creature who yearns to conquer the world and only the beautiful Snow White stands between her and her destiny. However, the resourceful Snow White has allied herself with the Huntsman, the man sent to kill her – and now it’s on, bee-yatch! PIRANHA 3DD (Dimension) is a sequel to the 2010 reboot of the fishy franchise. This time the prehistoric piranha .have made their way from Lake Victoria to an adjacent water park.

June 6, 2012

THE DO-DECA-PENTATHLON (Fox Searchlight) sees two ultra-competitive brothers going after one another in the ultimate family competition. This is the latest from indie darlings the Duplass Brothers and should be seeing a limited release, although at the moment it’s listed as wide.

June 8, 2012

MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) has our favorite zoo escapees trying to make their way back to New York via Europe, only people aren’t exactly comfortable with a lion, zebra, hippo and giraffe (not to mention meerkats and penguins) running around free, so they hitch a ride with the circus. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (FilmDistrict) has a trio of cynical journalists from a Seattle weekly investigating a classifying ad recruiting fellow adventurers for time travel.

June 15, 2012

THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia) stars Adam Sandler as an irresponsible self-centered jerk who needs to get some cash to pay off a loan shark and hits upon the idea of attending his estranged son’s wedding to reconnect and maybe leach off of his success. Andy Samberg is featured as the son. THE TORTURED (IFC) is being released in limited markets and is about a pair of grieving parents whose son’s murderer gets off with a lighter sentence. Outraged by this injustice, they decide to take matters into their own hands. YOUR SISTER’S SISTER (IFC) is about a man, crushed by the death of his brother, who is sent to the family vacation home by his brother’s ex. There he meets the girlfriend’s sister and things look promising – until the ex arrives and things get complicated. Also scheduled for limited release.

June 22, 2012

TO ROME WITH LOVE (Sony Classics) is the latest from director Woody Allen and is his first film to be set in the ancient city of Rome. Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Roberto Benigni, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page star in this limited release.

June 27, 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight), opening in limited release, was one of the most talked-about films at Sundance this year and concerns a small girl whose world of natural balance and order is rocked by a terrible storm. Now, in order to save her dying father, she must find a way to restore the balance.

June 29, 2012

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) finds the Joe’s betrayed from the place they least expected it to come from as Cobra takes over. It will take the Rock and Bruce Willis to save America from Cobra in this summer action movie. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ bout! MAGIC MIKE (Warner Brothers) stars Channing Tatum in a story based on his own life as a male exotic dancer. Steven Soderbergh directs. PEOPLE LIKE US (DreamWorks) is about a fast-talking salesman whose big deal collapses on the same day he learns his father died. Further revelations include that he has a sister he never knew he had, and that his father has left his money to her, even though he desperately needs the cash. However he determines to meet her, which complicates things further. Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks co-star. TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION (Lionsgate) brings back Perry’s wildly popular grandma as Madea hosts a wealthy CFO who is at the center of a Ponzi scheme and is in the Federal Witness Relocation Program when he testifies against his powerful higher-ups.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

GREEN LANTERN (Warner Brothers) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $116.6M Total: $219.9 Verdict: Flop.
CARS 2 (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $191.5M Total: $559.9M Verdict: Made Money.
SUPER 8 (Paramount) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $127.0M Total: $259.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $160M. Domestic Gross: $146.4M Total: $353.6M Verdict: Made Money.
A BETTER LIFE (Summit) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $1.8M Total: $1.8 Verdict: Flop.
BAD TEACHER (Columbia) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $100.3M Total: $216.2 Verdict: Blockbuster.
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $68.2M Total: $187.4M Verdict: Hit.
JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER (Relativity) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $15.0M Total: $15.0M Verdict: Flop.
BEGINNERS (Focus) Budget: $3.2M. Domestic Gross: $5.8M Total: $14.3M Verdict: Hit.

JULY

With the Independence Day holiday weekend kicking off the month, July is almost always one of the most anticipated months of the studio schedule. Smack dab in the middle of the summer, the schedule this month is normally packed with some of the year’s most anticipated movies and this year that trend will most certainly continue, as you can see below.

July 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
STORY: Batman, now a hunted outlaw, must return to active duty when the twin threats of Bane and Catwoman threaten Gotham.
PROSPECTS: Very likely to be the biggest movie of the summer, it is to be the last Batman movie directed by Christopher Nolan and fans will be attending in droves.
OBSTACLES: Well, the world is supposedly coming to an end…
FACTOID: Nolan becomes the second director to complete a trilogy of superhero films (Sam Raimi was the first for Spider-Man).

SCORCHERS

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Ifran Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, C. Thomas Howell
STORY: A teenage science nerd gets amazing powers, and discovers that those powers may be related to the death of his parents years earlier.
PROSPECTS: A reboot of the amazingly popular Spider-Man franchise with Garfield stepping in for Toby Maguire and Marc Webb for Sam Raimi. Spider-Man is arguably the most popular of the Marvel superheroes.
OBSTACLES: It remains to be seen if the moviegoing public will accept the changes in the franchise.
FACTOID: Sheen plays Uncle Ben, who was portrayed by the late Cliff Robertson in the original trilogy. Both actors also played John F. Kennedy in “Kennedy” and P.T.109 respectively.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH
RELEASE DATE: July 27, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Jonah Hill, Vince Vaughn, Will Forte, Billy Crudup, Rosemarie DeWitt, Richard Ayoade, Doug Jones
STORY: A neighborhood watch patrol group in a suburban neighborhood gets in way over their head when they uncover a plot to destroy the world.
PROSPECTS: Three of the most popular comic actors in Hollywood team up in a big budget sci-fi action comedy? Cha-ching!
OBSTACLES: Big name casts don’t necessarily guarantee box office. There hasn’t been a lot of buzz for this movie which is a bit troubling.
FACTOID: Will Ferrell was originally slated for the lead but dropped out when original director David Dobkin left the project.

ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT
RELEASE DATE: July 13, 2012
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Seann William Scott, Wanda Sykes, Keke Palmer, Peter Dinklage, Jennifer Lopez, Joy Behar, Nicki Minaj
STORY: Manny, Diego and Sid find themselves adrift after Skrat’s unrelenting pursuit of that acorn causes the Pangaea supercontinent to split apart.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular animated feature franchises looks to be cruising along in its newest installment.
OBSTACLES: With Brave and Madagascar 3 the summer is a bit crowded on the animated feature front and the weakest entries may not survive; I would bet this one is pretty strong based on previous installments and the trailer though.
FACTOID: Jeremy Renner was originally set to voice a role but had to bow out because of his busy schedule.

SUMMER STORM

TED
RELEASE DATE: July 13, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Seth McFarlane (voice), Patrick Warburton, Jessica Stroup, Laura Vandervoort
STORY: A young boy’s wish for his cherished teddy bear to come to life has unforeseen consequences when the bear refuses to leave his side – even long after he’s an adult.
PROSPECTS: From the twisted mind behind “The Family Guy” comes this CGI/Live Action mix which should delight the legions of cultish fans of the TV show.
OBSTACLES: The trailer didn’t look particularly impressive and there isn’t a lot of buzz around this one. It might get lost among the bigger profile releases this month.
FACTOID: This is McFarlane’s first live action feature film as a director.

HEAT WAVE

July 5, 2012

KATY PERRY: PART OF ME (Paramount Insurge) follows the singer through her California Dreams tour last year and spends time with her onstage, offstage and with her fans. No telling whether her fans will have time to see this with Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 coming out though.

July 6, 2012

In SAVAGES (Universal), director Oliver Stone brings to life Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel about a love triangle between two successful marijuana entrepreneurs and their mutual girlfriend and the Mexican drug cartel that exploited it. THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (Magnolia), opening in limited release, stars Morgan Freeman as a writer who has lost his inspiration and goes to a beach house to find it. It’s always in the last place that you look.

July 11, 2012

EASY MONEY (Weinstein) is a crime thriller from Sweden opening in limited release. In it, the lives of three desperate people are going to collide over a multi-million stash of cocaine and a Yugoslavian hit man.

July 13, 2012

RED LIGHTS (Millennium) is about a pair of paranormal debunkers who investigate the reappearance of a blind psychic who had been off the grid for years. Of course, you know they’ll come face to face with something unexplainable, something they’d never thought would happen. Opening in limited release only.

July 25, 2012

RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight) opens in limited release and is concerned about a novelist who breaks a dry spell with a story about a feisty young woman – and a week later is shocked to find the living, breathing woman he wrote about on his couch. Stranger Than Fiction anyone?

July 27, 2012

STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit) is the latest in the urban dance franchise and is about…well, that really doesn’t matter now does it. CLOWN: THE MOVIE (Drafthouse) was one of the most acclaimed movies at the recent Florida Film Festival and comes out in limited release. This Swedish film is about a man who causes an accident that injures his brother, forcing him to take care of his nephew including taking him on a canoe trip that was planned before the accident. KILLER JOE (LD Distribution) is a limited release extreme crime film in which a paid hitman accepts the sister of his client as sexual collateral in exchange for arranging an accident for the client’s mother. Sounds delightfully twisted.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $250 Million (shared with first movie). Domestic Gross: $381.0M Total: $1.328 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON (DreamWorks) Budget: $195M. Domestic Gross: $352.4M Total: $1.124B Verdict: Blockbuster.
COWBOYS AND ALIENS (Universal) Budget: $163M. Domestic Gross: $100.2M Total: $174.8M Verdict: Flop.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (Paramount/Marvel) Budget: $140M. Domestic Gross: $176.7M Total: $368.6M Verdict: Made Money.
HORRIBLE BOSSES (New Line) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $117.5M Total: $209.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
CRAZYSTUPID LOVE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $84.4M Total: $142.9M Verdict: Made Money.
THE SMURFS (Columbia) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $142.6M Total: $563.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS (Screen Gems) Budget: $35M Domestic Gross: $55.8M Total: $149.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
LARRY CROWNE (Universal) Budget: $30M Domestic Gross: $35.6M Total: $52.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
ZOOKEEPER (MGM/Columbia) Budget: $80M Domestic Gross: $80.4M Total: $169.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
MONTE CARLO (20th Century Fox) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $23.2M Total: $39.7M Verdict: Broke Even.

AUGUST

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

August 2012

SMOKIN’ HOT

TOTAL RECALL
RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, Bill Nighy, Ethan Hawke, Will Yun Lee, Bokeem Woodbine
STORY: A man who gets memories of being a super-spy implanted for a mind-vacation goes on the run after government troops interrupt the procedure. He must find a rebel leader to find out who he is – and what is real.
PROSPECTS: The movie is based less on the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie than on the Phillip K. Dick novella it was taken from. The trailer looks surprisingly good – this could be one of the sleeper hits of the summer.
OBSTACLES: The movie could compare unfavorably to the Schwarzenegger movie in which case audiences might stay away in droves.
FACTOID: This is the first film that director Len Wiseman and his wife Kate Beckinsale have worked on together that wasn’t Underworld related.

SCORCHERS

THE EXPENDABLES 2
RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2012
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth
STORY: A new assignment goes horribly wrong and the Expendables need to not only make it right but to avenge a fallen brother.
PROSPECTS: The first all-star action flick got so-so reviews but big time box office love. The new one expands the roles of Schwarzenegger and Willis and adds Norris (who hasn’t acted since “Walker, Texas Ranger” went off the air) and van Damme.
OBSTACLES: The first one really didn’t live up to the hype; one has to wonder if this is the right vehicle for all these stars.
FACTOID: The filmmakers built a railway bridge over the Osam River in Bulgaria for the film; the bridge remained after filming and is now part of the Bulgarian railroad network.

THE BOURNE LEGACY
RELEASE DATE: August 3, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, Joan Allen, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, Oscar Isaacs, David Strathairn
STORY: Jason Bourne isn’t the only assassin to come out of Redstone and this is the story of one of them, whose life is directly affected by Bourne’s exploits in the first three films.
PROSPECTS: The high-octane spy series adds rising star Renner to the mix in what could well be a recharge of the franchise.
OBSTACLES: A Bourne film without Jason Bourne (or Matt Damon) sounds like a dicey venture at best. Renner has yet to prove himself as a box office draw.
FACTOID: Director Paul Greengrass, who helmed the last two Bourne films, passed on directing a third and Damon passed on doing another Bourne outing without Greengrass, so this film was used to potentially continue the franchise in case Damon never returns to the Bourne character.

THE APPARITION
RELEASE DATE: August 24, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Julianna Guill, Luke Pasqualino, Suzanne Ford, Rick Gomez, Anna Clark, Meena Serendib
STORY: A young couple begin to experience inexplicable and frightening phenomena in their home and slowly come to realize that the presence may have been one conjured accidentally during a university parapsychology experiment.
PROSPECTS: Scary movies in the dog days of August have a tendency to do pretty well.
OBSTACLES: Although Greene (the Twilight franchise) and Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise) have face value, none of the cast has name value as of yet.
FACTOID: The story is supposedly based on actual events; Dark Castle, producers of the film, return to the horror genre after a bit of an absence.

SUMMER STORM

PARANORMAN
RELEASE DATE: August 17, 2012
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Starring the voices of Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein, Jodelle Ferland, John Goodman, Bernard Hill, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kodi Smit-McPhee
STORY: A small town becomes besieged by zombies and only a small boy who can speak with the dead can save them.
PROSPECTS: This is the latest project from LAIKA, the studio behind Coraline.
OBSTACLES: Looks a little bit too much like The Nightmare Before Christmas which may turn some people off.
FACTOID: The film is set in the fictional town of Blithe Hollow, a nod to Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow.

HEAT WAVE

August 3, 2012

In DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) Greg and friends come together for the worst…summer…ever.

August 10, 2012

HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) stars Meryl Streep as a woman caught in a lifeless marriage who takes her unwilling husband (Tommy Lee Jones) to a week of marriage therapy with a famous couples specialist (Steve Carrell). The trailer looked pretty impressive for this one. THE CAMPAIGN (Warner Brothers) pits Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as challengers for a North Carolina congressional seat in an increasingly vicious campaign. It’s a comedy and not a documentary, by the way.

August 15, 2012

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) stars Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as a childless couple who pray for a miracle – and get one. This family-sized fantasy is meant to touch hearts and bring smiles.

August 17, 2012

SPARKLE (Columbia) is a remake of the 1976 musical roughly based on the story of the Supremes starring Irene Cara. This time, ex-“American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks stars and in her final film role, Whitney Houston as her mother. PREDISPOSED (IFC), opening in limited release, stars Jesse Eisenberg as a piano prodigy auditioning for a prestigious music program who must deal with getting his drug-addicted mother into rehab on the day of his audition. Melissa Leo co-stars.

August 24, 2012

HIT AND RUN (Open Road) stars Dax Shepard as a former mob getaway driver who busts out of the Federal Witness Relocation program in order to drive his girlfriend to Los Angeles so she can land her dream job – and must fend off both the Feds as well as his old gang. In PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) a New York bike courier (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets inadvertently involved in the business of a crooked cop (Michael Shannon) in this film re-scheduled from January.

August 31, 2012

7500 (CBS) is an ensemble thriller about a group of passengers on a Trans-Pacific flight to Tokyo who encounter a supernatural force en route. LAWLESS (Weinstein) is based on the true story of the Bondurant brothers, a group of bootlegging brothers who made it big during prohibition. The impressive cast includes Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain and Guy Pearce. THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) is about a family that unwittingly brings a cursed box into their home after buying it on E-Bay, releasing a malevolent spirit that is called a dybbuk in Jewish folklore. Amazingly, the story is based on an actual case.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) Budget: $93M. Domestic Gross: $176.8M Total: $481.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (Lionsgate) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $21.3M Total: $48.8M Verdict: Flop.
FRIGHT NIGHT (DreamWorks) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $18.3M Total: $41.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
FINAL DESTINATION 5 (New Line) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $42.6M Total: $157.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
APOLLO 18 (Dimension) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $25.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE HELP (DreamWorks) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $169.7M Total: $211.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE CHANGE-UP (Universal) Budget: $52M. Domestic Gross: $37.1M Total: $75.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
SPY KIDS: ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD (Dimension) Budget: $27M. Domestic Gross: $38.5M Total: $78.0M Verdict: Made Money.
ONE DAY (Focus) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $56.7M Verdict: Hit.
30 MINUTES OR LESS (Columbia) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $37.1M Total: $40.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE DEBT (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $31.2M Total: $45.6M Verdict: Broke Even.
OUR IDIOT BROTHER (Weinstein) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $24.8M Total: $24.8M Verdict: Big Hit.

There are a whole lot of reasons to hit the multiplexes this summer, not the least of which is the air conditioned comfort. There literally is something for every kind of taste out there, be it big honkin’ action movies to tear jerkers to kid-friendly animated features. Hopefully a few of the previews here have piqued your interest. Please keep in mind that as always, release dates are rarely set in stone; some of the films in this preview will be delayed, shifted to different dates or even shelved altogether and/or exiled to Direct-to-Home Video hell. Still, there should be plenty here in any case to keep you busy all summer long. Don’t fret when August approaches however – there are some pretty intriguing movies looking to make their mark in the Fall, ranging from Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Quentin Tarantino’s take on a Western with Django Unchained, the end of the most polarizing series in movie history comes to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 while James Bond makes a long-overdue return in Skyfall. There is also an animated team-up of legendary characters like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in Rise of the Guardians and a big screen version of the hit Broadway musical Les Miserables. That’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves however – we’ll be back with a more detailed preview at the end of August. Until then, Cinema365 will be here with our weekly previews of new releases, our monthly Four-Warned series and of course reviews every day (usually) to keep up on the cinematic goodies being served in theaters all over. Bon appétit!