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.

Marvel’s The Avengers


Marvel's The Avengers

Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson are a bit grumpy because they didn’t get a nifty uniform.

(2012) Superhero (Disney/Marvel) Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Gwynneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany (voice), Alexis Denisof, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton. Directed by Joss Whedon

 

Okay, take a deep breath now. It’s finally here, after five years of anticipation, of endless speculation, it’s here. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, assembled in one place. Comic book fans of all sorts have been squirming in their chairs for months waiting for this movie to make it into the multiplex.

The thing is, this isn’t a movie just for those who love superheroes. This is spectacle on an epic scale, with battles raging in the skies as well as in the streets of Manhattan. However, there is more to it with a bit of pathos as well as some sharp dialogue. For those wondering, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the preceding Marvel superhero movies, although it helps to have done so.

Loki (Hiddleston) has been released from his quantum exile by the Tesseract, a cube of immense power that SHIELD has been using to try to create a self-sustaining energy source. He immediately uses his spear to control Professor Erik Selvig (Skarsgard) who’s been consulting with SHIELD on the project, and Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Renner), an agent of SHIELD.

SHIELD director Nick Fury (Jackson) realizes that war has been declared on Earth by Loki – and he may have an army of alien beings behind him. The armed might of the world’s armies will be insufficient to stop what’s coming, so he is forced to recruit the most powerful beings on Earth to stop the threat – Iron Man (Downey), he of the powerful metal battle suit; Dr. Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), a brilliant scientist and expert on gamma radiation who when angered turns into a gigantic mindless beast that can tear about virtually anything without much effort, and Captain America (Evans), a soldier from World War II rescued from a decades-long sleep who was enhanced at the genetic level by a super soldier formula.

They are joined by the Black Widow (Johansson), an athletic spy and master interrogator and agent Phil Coulson (Gregg), Fury’s right hand – and eye in the field. They’re going to need all of them because with Hawkeye swinging for the other team, Loki is privy to all of SHIELD’s dirty little secrets.

The rest of the team is transported to SHIELDS heli-carrier, an airport carrier with gigantic helicopter rotors and the ability to turn invisible – yes, a cloaking shield! Eat your hearts out, Trekkers! In any case, Banner works on a device to track the unique but faint gamma radiation signature of the Tesseract. In the meantime, Loki is captured by Cap and Iron Man in Germany.

That brings Thor (Hemsworth) into the mix. Thor, Loki’s adopted brother, has noticed what Loki is up to and has had his father send him to Midguard (Earth) at some great cost. The intention is to bring Loki back to Asgard to answer for his crimes there. However, there is work to be done on Earth before that can happen – heading off the invasion that Loki has initiated, for one thing and the alien Chitaurs are not particularly interested in a gentle, benevolent rule. It will take the combined might of all of them to thwart Loki’s intricate plans and save the Earth from being subjugated by alien masters.

This is everything a superhero film is supposed to be; it captures the dynamics of each individual character and Whedon and writer Zak Penn extrapolate how the interpersonal relationships would work given their personalities and egos (which, to be fair, the comics have been doing for years). The result is a believably dysfunctional group of heroes who can be prima donnas and have their own agendas from time to time. Tony Stark (the alter ego of Iron Man) for example is highly suspicious of SHIELD’s motives and distrusts government, particularly after they forcibly tried to take away his work from him in the first two Iron Man movies.

Everyone gets to shine here, from the big guns (Downey) right on down to Gregg who has few scenes but makes the most of them. All of them, including Nick Fury (who hasn’t had much to do in previous films except for a good deal of expository dialogue) kick patooty, whether each other (as in  Thor-Hulk battle) or against the aliens (Cap gives the big green guy the orders “Hulk smash” and Hulk, grinning broadly, does just that).

It might have gone a little bit long (and waiting until the very end of the credits for the second extra scene might be a too much to ask) but all in all this is mind-blowing when it needs to be and visceral when it has to be. Watching Hulk smash is one of the great joys in life, as is seeing Cap’s leadership abilities come to life, or Tony Stark’s ego.

Nothing I say is going to dissuade people who want to see this from seeing it or those that don’t want to see it from avoiding it. If you don’t like superhero movies, if you find big loud action movies with Dolby sound and 3D glasses to be sensory overload, you’re going to be uncomfortable with this. HOWEVER if you don’t mind or actively love these things, you’ll be in your element here.

A note to parents: please don’t bring your kids along if they’re say seven or younger. The movie is a bit long for kids with short attention spans, it’s very scary in places and LOUD throughout. There was a moment when Hulk was roaring and I happened to be glancing at a little girl who couldn’t have been more than five years old covering her ears with a look of ABSOLUTE terror on her face. She had no business being there and you know it wasn’t her idea to go. Get a babysitter folks, or take them to see a Pixar film instead or be prepared to have an angry mob of people at the theater turn on you. This isn’t a little kids movie by any stretch of the imagination. If your kids aren’t able to handle a two hour movie at home, they probably won’t be able to handle it in a theater – and if you should know how easily frightened they are. The movie theater isn’t a day care center.

REASONS TO GO: Extremely well-choreographed action sequences. None of the heroes get short shrift.

REASONS TO STAY: Might be a bit long for those with short attention spans.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of violence of the alien invasion sort, as well as a few fairly scary sequences. This is definitely not for children under, say, seven years old.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie became the fastest to earn $200M at the U.S. box office – it only took three days to reach that milestone.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/10/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 69/100.The reviews are almost without exception positive.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: X-Men

STAN LEE LOVERS: The legendary Marvel Comics grand vizier shows up in his cameo during a montage of interviews of Big Apple residents being interviewed about the battle just fought on city streets.

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

NEXT: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Four-Warned: May 2012


May 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (1.0)
2. MEN IN BLACK 3 (1.4)
3. THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (1.8)
4. DARK SHADOWS (1.9)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. THE INTOUCHABLES (1.2)
2. POLISSE (1.3)
3. DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (1.5)
4. 5 BROKEN CAMERAS (1.6)
TIE. HYSTERIA (1.6)

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

MAY 4, 2012

A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN (Millennium) Genre: Romance. An irreverent young woman with health issues falls in love with her doctor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds like a lot of different movies, but this one has the great Peter Dinklage in it.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. Seven English retirees lured to an Indian resort with the promise of posh amenities arrive to find it not quite ready for occupancy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks charming and fun from the trailer with a solid cast.
DEATH OF A SUPERHERO (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A young boy with a brilliant future as a graphic novelist discovers his life is in danger from a real life enemy. Release Strategy: Seattle only. RATING: 1.5 Andy Serkis is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors; I hope this sees a more general or at least a limited release.
FIRST POSITION (IFC) Genre: Documentary. Filmmakers follow six young ballet hopefuls through the trials and tribulations of one of America’s most prestigious ballet competitions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Kids chasing their dreams in the arts; haven’t we seen this before?
JANNAT 2 (FIP) Genre: Crime Thriller. A streetwise gun runner infiltrates a vicious gun smuggling ring to help the cops take it down but when he falls in love with a beautiful doctor everything is thrown into chaos. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Trailer was a little disjointed; kinda looks cheesy.
LAST CALL AT THE OASIS (Participant/ATO) Genre: Documentary. Looks at the very real and grim possibility that in the not too distant future there may not be enough water to sustain life on this planet. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Looks very grim and haunting.
LOL (Lionsgate) Genre: Dramedy. A mother reads her daughter’s diary and realizes she doesn’t know her at all. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Nice cast but a little bit heavy on the teen angst.
MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The world’s most powerful heroes must take on an alien invasion led by a disgraced god. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 Long anticipated, finally here.
MEETING EVIL (Magnet) Genre: Thriller. A depressed unemployed family man offers to help a stranger with his car and becomes involved in a murder spree. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 They had me at Samuel L. Jackson.
MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) Genre: Horror. A sadistic mom and her bank robbing sons take control at a birthday party held at their former home, terrorizing the new residents. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 I don’t think this has anything to do with the 80s slasher film of the same name.
THE PERFECT FAMILY (Variance) Genre: Drama. A matriarch up for the Catholic Woman of the Year award tries to get her dysfunctional family to pull it together. Release Strategy: New York City (Opens in Los Angeles May 11). RATING: 2.2 Kathleen Turner gives what looks to be a marvelous performance.

MAY 9, 2012

PATIENCE: AFTER SEBALD (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A group of artists and writers interpret the work of W.G. Sebald, one of the 20th century’s most challenging writers. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.8 Black and white images and music pass by while the text is being read; just shoot me now.

MAY 11, 2012

A BAG OF HAMMERS (MPI Media Group) Genre: Caper Drama. A pair of charming con artists find themselves “adopted” by a neglected young boy and consequently their world view begins to change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Looks very indie but not in a good way.
THE CUP (Myriad) Genre: True Sports Drama. A rising star in the Australian horse racing world must decide whether to participate in the prestigious Melbourne Cup race days after his brother dies in a tragic accident. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 2.8 Even though this put goosebumps on me, I still couldn’t help thinking “Gee, another inspirational sports story.”
DANGEROUS ISHHQ (Reliance Big Picture) Genre: Thriller. A supermodel whose wealthy industrialist boyfriend has been kidnapped must rescue him before time runs out – and the clues to his freedom lay in her past lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Not typical Bollywood fare but definitely shows some visual flair.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Gothic Comedy. A vampire is inadvertently released from captivity in the 1970s after centuries of imprisonment. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.9 The legendary 60s gothic soap opera as reinvented by Tim Burton – what’s not to love?
DRAGON EYES (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A town ruled by gangs and corrupt police vie for the services of a newly arrived martial arts phenom, but he has another agenda in mind. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 While it does have the great JCVD, the trailer makes him look like more of a cameo and the film like a B movie Walking Tall clone.
EL GRINGO (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A violent thief crosses the border into Mexico with his ill-gotten gains, intending to live out his life on a beach with the rest of it but the townspeople have other ideas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Certainly a riff on El Mariachi but why not take from the best?
GIRL IN PROGRESS (Pantelion) Genre: Coming of Age. A single mom immersed in her career and in the affections of a co-worker fails to notice her own teen daughter’s move into adulthood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 The tagline “Lessons in motherhood – taught by a kid” sure doesn’t help this movie’s cause any.
GOD BLESS AMERICA (Magnet) Genre: Black Comedy. A man, tired of rudeness, crudeness and the cult of personality goes on a killing spree aided by an eager teen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Caught Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest at the Florida Film Festival – read my review here.
HICK (Phase 4) Genre: Dramedy. A small town girl with big dreams hitchhiking to Las Vegas runs into some shady characters on the way there. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds like a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Neal Cassady.
I WISH (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. A young Japanese boy separated from his brother by divorce dreams of a miracle that he believes will happen when bullet trains on a new line pass each other at full speed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 From acclaimed director Hirokazu Kareeda comes this look at fractured families and faith.
NESTING (Steele) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A 30-something couple, fearing the loss of their relevance, squats in their old apartment with unforeseen consequences. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Kind of like John Hughes in reverse.
THE PHILLY KID (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A former wrestling champion, fresh out of prison, takes up underground MMA fighting to help his best friend get out of debt and winds up in more trouble than he bargained for. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 Another *yawn* underground fighting movie.
PORTRAIT OF WALLY (Seventh Art) Genre: Documentary. Egon Schiele’s painting Portrait of Wally, the pride of the Leopold Gallery in Austria, becomes the focus of a legal battle which brings light to bear on Nazi art looting and the ramifications of private collectors vs. public museums. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 A very complex case that deserves a serious examination which I hope this documentary gives it.
THE ROAD (Freestyle) Genre: Horror. When a cold case of three teenagers who disappeared on a country road is re-examined, it’s discovered that there is more to that stretch of road than meets the eye. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks deliciously creepy and sensationally scary.
SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Tribeca) Genre: Crime Thriller. A previously honest cop steals a bag of cocaine from a vicious drug dealer who kidnaps his son and demands the drugs back in exchange. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks like a non-stop top notch action film.
SMALL BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (Long Shot Factory) Genre: Comedy. An anxious pregnant technophile goes on a road trip to meet her technophobic mom. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 The trailer has some wonderful heart; this is inspired by the syndicated web series “Sparks.”
STASH HOUSE (After Dark Action) Genre: Suspense. A family moves into a new home only to discover that a stash of heroin is stored in its walls – and the criminals want it back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Generic home/fortress action flick.
TONIGHT YOU’RE MINE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. During a big music festival, a star performer is handcuffed to a brand new performer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Could have an excess of indie preciousness.
TRANSIT (After Dark Action) Genre: Action. A man returns home after serving out a tax evasion sentence goes on a camping trip to reunite his family, but discovers that they are being pursued by four ruthless killers after the stolen money they hid in his family’s car. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Jim Caviezel is moving higher on my list after his work on “Person of Interest” this year.
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (A&E Indie) Genre: Musical Documentary. Paul Simon in making the album Graceland defied a UN ban to work with South African artists; 25 years later he returns to South Africa and discusses the fallout of his actions. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Has the potential to examine an art vs. politics question that rarely gets examined.
WHERE DO WE GO NOW? (Sony Classics) Genre: Dramedy. A group of women in a Lebanese village of Muslims and Christians try to hold on to peace when tensions threaten to bring violence back to the village. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.0 Charming and heartrending at once.

MAY 16, 2012

THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. A heavy-handed dictator of an Arab nation goes to New York City to address the UN. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.0 I’ve never really been a big fan of Sacha Baron Cohen but this one looks like it could have potential.
ELENA (Zeitgeist) Genre: Thriller. A golddigging Russian wife hatches a scheme to maintain her inheritance. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Looks veritably Hitchcockian and the Philip Glass score doesn’t hurt.

MAY 18, 2012

AMERICAN ANIMAL (Screen Media) Genre: Fantasy. A young man whose roommate is moving out tries to get him to stay in one night of partying. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.3 From the trailer, seems to promote the idea that crazy is better. Crazy is just crazy.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. Naval vessels are trapped in an ocean-based alien invasion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Alien invasion films have been remarkably bad of late; this doesn’t seem to be much better based on what I’ve seen.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Mystery. A young woman in the 1980s undergoes experimental therapy that opens up new vistas but threatens her sanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit avant garde.
CROOKED ARROWS (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Sports Drama. A coach at a primarily Native American school leads the lacrosse team to a State championship game against their prep school rivals. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Meant to be an allegory on the treatment of aboriginals in South America.
DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. The story of one of fashion’s most influential figures of the 20th century. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 As I’ve said before, fashion is a subject that I’m absolutely not interested in.
FOLLOW ME: THE YONI NETANYAHU STORY (International Film Circuit) Genre: Documentary. The tale of the young soldier who led the Israeli commandos on the Raid on Entebbe. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Sounds kind of interesting but at the same time maybe has a bit of an agenda.
HYSTERIA (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The story of the guy who invented the vibrator, a man whom many lonely housewives should bless. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Looks hysterically funny (pun intended) and has a great cast.
LOVELY MOLLY (Image) Genre: Thriller. A young newlywed returns to her childhood home only to have the memories of her past abuse creep back – and maybe something else as well. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The newest from The Blair Witch Project director Eduardo Sanchez – but it’s nothing like that film.
MANSOME (Paladin) Genre: Documentary. Morgan Spurlock takes a look at modern male grooming in the age of metrosexuality. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The newest from the suddenly prolific Morgan Spurlock looks kind of irreverent and fun.
POLISSE (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. This intense Cesar-nominated film follows the daily lives of the police Child Protection Unit in Paris. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Gritty, heartbreaking, intense and funny – could be one of the best films of the year judging from the trailer.
THE SAMARITAN (IFC) Genre: Action. A grifter trying to make a new life after a 25-year prison stint is ensnared by his old life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 With Samuel M*****F****** L. Jackson in the house, that’s all I need to hear.
VIRGINIA (EOne) Genre: Drama. A single mom’s life gets harder when her affair with the married sheriff threatens to become exposed in an election year. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks kinda offbeat but with Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly in the cast, you can’t go wrong.
WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Five couples discover that their lives become much more complicated once they get pregnant. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 A strong ensemble cast but looks kinda weak in the humor department.

MAY 25, 2012

THE CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Genre: Horror. A group of “extreme tourists” visit Chernobyl and when their van breaks down quickly discover that the town and plant aren’t quite as deserted as they were led to believe. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 From the creators of the Paranormal Activity series this looks balls-out scary.
COWGIRLS ‘N ANGELS (Goldwyn) Genre: Family. A little girl searching for her absent dad (a rodeo rider) is brought into the Sweethearts of the Rodeo after displaying skills as a trick rider. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 A little bit – shall we say – over-sweet.
HIDE AWAY (MMC Joule) Genre: Drama. A broken once-successful businessman tries to turn his life around by refurbishing a dilapidated boat in an idyllic seaside village. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds kinda maudlin but SXSW doesn’t usually book maudlin.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Genre: Limited. A disabled French man develops an unexpected bond with his caregiver, an ex-con with an unusually upbeat attitude. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A box office record-holder in France, this was a big hit at the recent Florida Film Festival.
MEN IN BLACK 3 (Columbia) Genre: Science Fiction. Agent J must go back in time and save Agent K and correct the time line or the Earth is doomed. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 Looks like one of the big hits of the summer.
MIGHTY FINE (Adopt) Genre: Dramedy. A man relocates his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans in the 1970s in search of a better life. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.8 Why cast Chazz Palminteri as a Jewish man? Aren’t there enough Jewish actors?
MOONRISE KINGDOM (Focus) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A New England town in 1965 is turned upside down when a pair of kids run away into the woods when a big storm is brewing. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 3.0 Doesn’t sound like a romantic comedy but with Wes Anderson in the director’s chair anything can happen.
OSLO, AUGUST 31 (Strand) Genre: Thriller. An alcoholic gets a day pass out of rehab in order to go to a job interview in Oslo but the pressures of the day and of family and friends puts his sobriety in jeopardy. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks like another home run from Norway.

MAY 30, 2012

5 BROKEN CAMERAS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Documentary. A documentarian and a farmer together decide to document five years in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 The title refers to five cameras during the course of the filming of the documentary that were shot or broken by Israeli soldiers.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Marvel’s The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Where Do We Go Now?, Battleship, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, Lovely Molly, The Intouchables, Men in Black 3

New Releases for the Week of May 4, 2012


May 4, 2012

MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS

(Disney/Marvel) Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany (voice), Alexis Denisof. Directed by Joss Whedon

At long last it is here, the movie we’ve been waiting for ever since Iron Man brought the Marvel franchise to the forefront of comic book films. Here Loki leads an alien invasion of Earth and it will take the combined strength of Earth’s mightiest heroes to save the planet from subjugation. Some theaters around the country will be holding a Marvel marathon, showing all six films preceding The Avengers chronologically on Thursday, culminating with a midnight showing of this film – check your local listings to see which theater is presenting this in your neck of the woods. As Stan Lee himself might say, Excelsior!

See the trailer, featurettes, clips, interviews and promos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Superhero

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference)

Damsels in Distress

(Sony Classics) Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton, Aubrey Plaza. A group of fashionistas at a college take a new girl under their wings in order to teach her their somewhat unorthodox ways of helping people who they deem are in need of it. When the new girl is pursued by a young man, it sets off a chain of events that will change the dynamic of the girls and maybe – just maybe – give them an entirely new viewpoint on life.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic content including some sexual material)  

The Kid with a Bike

(Sundance Selects) Cecile de France, Thomas Doret, Jeremie Renier, Egon Di Mateo. A young boy is abandoned by his father who leaves him with only a bicycle. The boy reasons that the father must still care something for him since the bike was left. He is taken under the wing of a kindly hairdresser who finds herself caring for the boy despite his erratic behavior and troubled nature. His search for a father figure may threaten the last relationship he has yet if he isn’t careful.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, violence, brief language and smoking)  

Monsieur Lazhar

(Music Box) Mohammed Fellag, Sophie Nelisse, Emilien Neron, Danielle Proulx.  A Montreal middle school class, devastated by the suicide of their teacher whose body was discovered by one of their number, is given a new teacher who has some baggage of his own. Cinema365 saw this as part of the recent Florida Film Festival, the review for which can be read here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, a disturbing image and brief language)

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!