The Fault in Our Stars


In order to make an omelet...

In order to make an omelet…

(2014) Drama (20th Century Fox/Fox 2000) Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, Emily Peachey, Lotte Verbeek, Ana Dela Cruz, Randy Kovitz, Toni Saladna, David Whalen, Milica Govich, Allegra Carpenter, Emily Bach, Tim Hartman, Bethany Leo, Alexis Hodges, Jean Bressard, Carly Otte, Elyse Alberts. Directed by Josh Boone

Life in general is rarely fair, but for teenagers who must deal with a deadly disease it is particularly unfair. Watching their lives ebb away, knowing that in the end their stay in this life will end prematurely, they try to find some meaning in their brief lives. It is hard to find much drama in the ins and outs of teen angst when you know your death is just around the corner.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley) has thyroid cancer that has spread to her lungs. She is unable to breathe without the aid of an oxygen tank. At age 13, she very nearly died, her tearful mother (Dern) whispering that it is okay to let go but that’s not in Hazel’s DNA. She’s a fighter and she survives, managing to stabilize her deteriorating situation by undergoing an experimental treatment that she refers to as her miracle.

She is withdrawn and reads the same book incessantly – An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten, a reclusive American author who has exiled himself to Amsterdam. The book intrigues her because she can relate to the cancer-stricken heroine but also because it ends mid-sentence, indicating that the heroine has died. She wants to know what happens to the supporting characters after the lead character has expired but van Houten has consistently refused to answer questions of that nature despite many entreaties by fans of the book to do so.

She reluctantly attends a support group that meets at a local church with a well-meaning youth pastor (Hartman) who rolls out a giant rug with a portrait of Jesus and abjures his group of cancer-stricken kids that they are literally meeting “in the heart of Jesus.” Hazel isn’t really looking to reach out and make friends – what’s the point – but she attracts the attention of Augustus Waters (Elgort), a free-spirited survivor who was there to support his friend Isaac (Wolff) who is soon to have surgery that will render him permanently blind. Isaac at least has the comfort of a girlfriend (Peachey) who asserts that she’ll love him “always” but is eventually freaked out by the reality of his situation and dumps him.

Augustus had bone cancer which eventually cost him the use of one leg. Before the amputation, he had been a star basketball player in basketball-mad Indiana. An unlit cigarette dangles rakishly from his lips to symbolize that he is embracing his cancer but not giving it power over him. Not the most realistic of symbols, but he’s a teenager and entitled to do things that in the long run don’t accomplish the desired effect.

She attempts to keep the irrepressible Augustus at arm’s length but we all know (including Hazel Grace herself) that eventually he will win her over. Her mom and dad (Trammell) are both overjoyed that Hazel has connected to someone else. The two grow closer but the real kicker comes when Augustus uses his wish with a Make-a-Wish type group to take Hazel to Amsterdam to meet van Houten (Dafoe). Hazel would have used hers but at 13 she had used it instead to go to Disney World. Priorities, after all.

While the meeting with van Houten doesn’t go exactly as planned, it still ends up being a memorable trip although it concludes with devastating news – Augustus’ cancer, which had been in remission, has reappeared and it has spread everywhere. They both know that Augustus has been given a death sentence but they are determined that now that they are comfortable with being in love with each other that they will make the most of the time they both have left.

This is a movie that I am conflicted about in many ways. As most of you know, the movie is based on the bestselling novel by John Green that in turn was based on his experiences working with support groups of the sort Hazel made fun of early on in the film (and Hazel herself is based on a real person, Esther Earl, who died of thyroid cancer at the age of 16. Green, who was very involved in the production of the movie, pulled no punches in the book although for time constraints some of the suffering  at the hands of the disease that the protagonists had to deal with had to be left out – but then again, the movie isn’t about their suffering per se.

Shailene Woodley is one of the best young actresses working today and already has an Oscar nomination under her belt. She may well get another one here although Academy voters are not known for remembering good work from summer films. She captures the many dimensions of Hazel and keeps her real. A role like this could easily lose its humanity with actors trying to play her too heroically or not heroic enough. Hazel is an ordinary hero, a young girl living with lungs that don’t work properly and the prospects of a short life. She does tend to push people away but as it turns out there’s nothing wrong with her heart in the least.

Elgort is a handsome guy with an engaging grin, but the part is rife with cliches – the free-spirited dying kid who is full of life. Not that there aren’t kids like that running around, but there are a disproportionate number of them in Hollywood. Hazel narrates that she’d like to say that Augustus kept his sense of humor (after the cancer returned) but that wouldn’t be true, but then the writers go ahead and make it true. Don’t say that a character changes without having them change. It’s dishonest. None of that is Elgort’s fault by the way – and I don’t doubt he has a fine career ahead of him.

You need to keep a couple of things in mind when seeing this movie. First of all, it’s manipulative. Holy Christ is it manipulative! How could it not be, considering the subject matter? Brave kids facing a painful death? And yes, you will be anywhere from misty-eyed to outright sobbing when the end credits roll. Expect it and deal with it.

Secondly, this is a movie aimed very squarely at young teen and pre-teen girls. Augustus fits into the young female fantasy of a sensitive, caring boy who happens to be breathtakingly hot and free-spirited, willing to accept the love of his life as she is and wait for her when she’s not certain. He’s loyal, loving, affectionate, funny…if he pulled out a guitar and played a love song he wrote for every girl in the audience he couldn’t have been more perfect. And of course Hazel herself is brave, beautiful, and of course in mortal jeopardy but never backs down for a moment, fighting for her life with dignity and grace.

There are those who sniff that this movie isn’t about cancer, but that’s disingenuous. No, the movie isn’t about cancer – you’re not going to learn the ins and outs of the disease from watching this film – but cancer informs this movie. There’s no movie (or book) without it. This movie isn’t about cancer in the same way The Godfather isn’t about the Mafia.

There are some beautiful truths here to be had here but you have to plough through some fairly predictable elements to get to them. I would have liked to see the characters be less perfect and more human. I would have loved to see Augustus scream at the faulty stars at the raw deal he’s getting. I would have liked to see Hazel lash out more than she does. I would have liked to see the movie pander less to the target audience and respect them more. However, that doesn’t mean this movie won’t satisfy their needs and strike a powerful chord in their hearts, and who am I to dismiss a movie that can accomplish that as well as this one does?

REASONS TO GO: Woodley shows off her Oscar-nominated form. Not a typical teen romance.

REASONS TO STAY: Manipulative and maudlin and unnecessarily so.

FAMILY VALUES: Some sexuality, occasionally salty language and mature thematic content.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film’s title is a reference to a famous quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar; “The fault dear Brutus lies not in our stars but in ourselves.”

CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/17/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 82% positive reviews. Metacritic: 68/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: 50/50

FINAL RATING: 6/10

NEXT: Miss Bala

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New Releases for the Week of June 6, 2014


Edge of TomorrowEDGE OF TOMORROW

(Warner Brothers) Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Kirk Gurry, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way. Directed by Doug Liman

In the not-so-distant future, the Earth is being invaded by a vicious alien species intent on overrunning the indigenous inhabitants – us. Despite our own military advances, they are seemingly unbeatable, able to counter our every move. Into this miasma of violence and despair is dropped an officer with no combat experience. During a disastrous invasion of alien-held territory, he is killed within five minutes – only to wake up again just before the invasion. The same events unfold and he wakes up again. He begins to try to do things differently – and to his surprise, the outcome is altered somewhat. When he meets up with a woman who has been through a similar experience, he realizes that he may be the key to winning the war. Based on the acclaimed Japanese graphic novel All You Need is Kill.

See the trailer, a promo and footage from the premiere here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D (opens Thursday)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material)

The Fault in Our Stars

(20th Century Fox) Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern.Two young people who definitely fall into the “strong independent outsider” category share an acerbic sense of humor, a love for the unusual and a nearly pathological refusal to accept anything normal fall deeply in love. Unfortunately, they both share one more thing – cancer. Realizing that they could have a very limited time left, they choose to embrace the time they have and live life to the fullest while they still can. Based on the bestselling novel for young people by John Green.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, featurettes and B-Roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements, some sexuality and brief strong language)

Holiday

(Reliance) Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha, Govinda, Dipendra Sharma. This Hindi remake of the 2012 Tamil film Thuppakki  features Kumar as a soldier who while on vacation becomes involved in weeding out a crime ring.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Night Moves

(Cinedigm)  Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, Peter Skarsgard, Alia Shawkat.Three ecoterrorists with different background formulate the plan to blow up a controversial dam. Afterwards their actions begin to unravel their resolve as the unintended consequences create an atmosphere of paranoia and doubt among the trio of young people.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for some language and nudity)

Words and Pictures

(Roadside Attractions) Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Bruce Davison, Amy Brennerman. Two teachers at an exclusive prep school – one an art teacher who can no longer paint, the other an English teacher who no longer writes – get into a war over which is more important to society, words or pictures. As the students get drawn into their good-natured conflict, the two wounded souls begin to grow attracted to each other. The review for this Florida Film Festival feature can be found here.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material including nude sketches, language and some mature thematic material)

Four-Warned: June 2014


SnowpiercerEvery 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.

Most of the movies will never play theatrically where you live (unless you live in either New York or Los Angeles) but many of those that won’t will be available through Video-on-Demand; check with your local cable or satellite providers to find out if any specific movie is available through that medium.

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. EDGE OF TOMORROW (1.4)
2. TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (1.6)
3. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (1.9)
4. BEGIN AGAIN (2.0)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. SNOWPIERCER (1.0)
TIE. CITIZEN KOCH (1.0)
3. IVORY TOWER (1.1)
4. LULLABY (1.2)

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

JUNE 6, 2014

ANNA (Vertical) Genre: Thriller. A detective able to enter people’s minds and access their memories tries his skills on a teenager accused of a triple homicide. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 I do like Mark Strong but looks a bit short on thrills.
BORGMAN (Drafthouse) Genre: Thriller. An enigmatic stranger enters the life of a normal suburban family but will they will need to find out his sinister agenda before it’s too late. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 This Dutch film has taken the film festival circuit and genre community by storm.
BURNING BLUE (Lionsgate) Genre: Romance. When a criminal investigation within a Navy air squadron brings to light a forbidden affair within their ranks, the pilots begin to question their definitions of honor, friendship and brotherhood. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A product of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era.
BURT’S BUZZ (Area23a) Genre: Documentary. The story of cantankerous Burt’s Bee’s founder Burt Shavitz and what he’s up to these days. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the face and name of a billion dollar company?
THE CASE AGAINST 8 (HBO Films) Genre: Documentary. The inside story of the fight to overturn California’s controversial Proposition 8 which was recently struck down, restoring marriage equality to same sex couples in California and paving the way for the rest of the nation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 An emotional look at one of the most divisive subjects of the 21st century to date.
CITIZEN KOCH (Variance) Genre: Documentary. A look at the conservative billionaires who have become the poster boys for the abuses of Citizens United and have dominated Republican politics for the past decade. Release Strategy: New York City (expands June 13, June 20 and June 27). RATING: 1.0 An important film about how our democracy has been bought and sold under our noses; everyone should see this.
EDGE OF TOMORROW (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. During an alien invasion of Earth, a soldier who dies is continually reincarnated at the same point in time and becomes the key to winning a war that the human race has already lost. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.4 Starring Tom Cruise and based on a Japanese manga, the movie puts Groundhog Day in a sci-fi setting.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (20th Century Fox) Genre: Drama. Two cancer-stricken teenagers try to make the most of love in what time that they have. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Based on a bestselling novel and starring Shailene Woodley, this could either be an unforgettable experience or treacly garbage if not handled right.
HOLIDAY (Reliance) Genre: Action. A captain in the Indian army on vacation is forced to rely on his training and skills while romancing a feisty young woman and taking on an implacable terrorist organization. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Seems to be an action thriller with some moments of Bollywood silliness – surprised that Hollywood hasn’t made an American version of the plot.
I’LL FOLLOW YOU DOWN (Well Go USA) Genre: Science Fiction. When a young scientist disappears on a routine business trip, his family struggles to cope with his loss until years later, a bizarre discovery leads them to believe they can bring him home. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An interesting Canadian take on a popular science fiction subject with a solid cast including Haley Joel Osment, Gillian Anderson, Victor Garber and Rufus Sewell.
LITTLE BOY (Metanoia) Genre: War Drama. During the Second World War, a young boy struggles to bring his father back from the front. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Promising with a cast that includes Emily Watson and Kevin James but with no trailer available on the net I can’t really say for sure.
THE MOMENT (Screen Media) Genre: Thriller. Following the disappearance of her lover and her subsequent breakdown and commitment to a mental hospital, a photojournalist is befriended by a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to her missing boyfriend. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 It’s nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh onscreen again.
OBVIOUS CHILD (A24) Genre: Comedy. In 1962 An aspiring stand-up comic copes with losing her job, getting dumped and discovering that she’s pregnant, forcing a reinvention of her act – and herself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Jenny Slate has always been an excellent comic but shows herself to have possibilities as an actress here.
THE SACRAMENT (Magnet) Genre: Horror. Reporters for a TMZ-like show investigate a remote Central American cult who hide a dark secret. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Ti West is fast becoming one of my favorite new horror directors.
SUPERMENSCH: THE LEGEND OF SHEP GORDON (Radius) Genre: Documentary. Some say he’s the most influential manager ever; some say he’s just a nice guy who negotiates like a hard ass; everyone says that they broke the mold when they made him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 The list of people who count Shep Gordon as a friend is astounding.
THIS IS NOT A BALL (Videocine) Genre: Documentary. Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist, prepares to create an art installation in his native Brazil for the 2014 World Cup utilizing more than 10,000 soccer balls. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 No trailer available at present.
TRUST ME (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Comedy. An agent of child actors has to fight to protect his latest find – and possible ticket into the big time – from an overprotective stage father, an overzealous agent and an overactive nemesis. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Glad to see Clark Gregg breaking out of the Agent Coulson mold and moving into projects that showcase his talent.
WILLOW CREEK (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A pair of Bigfoot hunters find a lot more than they bargained for in the Northern California woods. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Director Bobcat Goldthwaite comes up with his first horror film.

JUNE 11, 2014

BURNING BUSH (HBO Europe) Genre: True Life Drama. The legacy of a Czech student who burned himself alive in protest of the Soviet occupation is defended by an idealistic lawyer against a communist regime seeking to discredit his sacrifice. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.2 Initially made as a miniseries and condensed down into feature film form.

JUNE 13, 2014

22 JUMP STREET (Columbia/MGM) Genre: Comedy. The two misfit cops from the first film take on a college drug ring. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 For whatever reason I’m just not so enthusiastic about this movie; maybe later.
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (Image) Genre: Horror. A group of elite cheerleaders who died during a party mishap show up at school the next day with some mysterious new appetites. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Nobody does horror with quite as much style as Lucky McKee does.
HELLION (IFC) Genre: Drama. When his brother is taken from their home, an increasingly delinquent teen sets about getting him back. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 May well be Aaron Paul’s best performance yet.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Hiccup and his dragon Toothless must take on a fearsome new foe. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.2 Likely to be the summer’s biggest animated feature.
THE HUMAN RACE (XLRator) Genre: Science Fiction. Eighty strangers are forced to take part in a brutal race to the death where there is only one survivor. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Dark, brutal with a twisted sense of humor – which makes it a must-see for me.
I AM I (Gravitas) Genre: Drama. After meeting her estranged father at her mother’s funeral, a woman realizes that he believes that she is her mother and decides to let him believe that. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Not sure what to make of this.
IVORY TOWER (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. As student debt rises and available jobs shrink, high school graduates begin to wonder seriously if college is actually worth it anymore. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 A sobering look at higher education, it’s cost to society and whether or not the system is actually serving America or geared towards making profits.
LIFE’S A BREEZE (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. A struggling Irish family races against time to find a lost fortune. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Another charming Irish movie; you gotta love it.
LULLABY (ARC Entertainment) Genre: Drama. When his father determines to take himself off of life support in two days, his estranged son attempts to reconnect with his family one last time. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A fantastic cast and a subject that we tend to shy away from could well be a terrific film if they don’t make it too treacly.
THE ROVER (A24) Genre: Science Fiction. In a world made chaotic by the collapse of civilization, a man uses a gang member left behind to take back the car they stole from him. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expands June 20). RATING: 2.0 Guy Pearce movies always seem to be worthwhile viewing.
THE SIGNAL (Focus) Genre: Science Fiction. Students tracking a hack job on MIT mainframes wake up from a cross country road trip into a living nightmare. Release Strategy: Limited (expands June 20 and 27). RATING: 2.1 Looks pretty creepy; sort of a more horrific Close Encounters.
WITCHING & BITCHING (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror Comedy. A group of Spanish bank robbers on the run in the Basque mountainsides come up against a coven of witches preparing an ancient ritual. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 Think of Pedro Almodovar directing The Witches of Eastwick.

JUNE 20, 2014

CODE BLACK (Long Shot Factory) Genre: Documentary. Viewers are given a glimpse at one of the busiest trauma centers in the country, a place where modern emergency medicine was invented and uses it as a means of discussing the health care crisis this country now faces. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Could very well be a film that leads to real change.
COHERENCE (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Science Fiction. On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience disturbing phenomena. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Could be a real mind-bender.
JERSEY BOYS (Warner Brothers) Genre: Musical. Direct from its hit run on Broadway, this musical is a fanciful look at the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 Clint Eastwood? Directing a musical?!?
THE LAST SENTENCE (Music Box) Genre: Biographical Drama. Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt crusades against Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia as Sweden struggles to maintain its neutrality during the Second World War. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 Meant to take this franchise in a completely different direction might be just what the mad scientist ordered.
LE CHEF (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Comedy. A 3-star Michelin chef is about to lose his namesake restaurant along with his inspiration but finds hope in a talented but stubborn young chef. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 This French comedy was one of the favorites at this year’s Florida Film Festival; read my review here.
THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (Screen Gems) Genre: Comedy. The couples from the surprise hit first film head out to Vegas for a wedding. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Kevin Hart is beginning to develop into one of my favorite comic actors.
THIRD PERSON (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. Three couples in three cities all hide secrets as their stories entwine in unexpected ways. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Another strong ensemble piece for writer-director Paul Haggis.
VENUS IN FUR (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Romance. A theatrical impresario becomes obsessed with an actress auditioning for his latest play. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 The latest from iconic director Roman Polanski.

JUNE 25, 2014

YVES ST. LAURENT (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. The story of one of the 20th century’s most iconic clothing designers whose innovations continue to influence fashion today. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Not really a big lover of fashion but the trailer looked intriguing.

JUNE 27, 2014

BEGIN AGAIN (Weinstein) Genre: Romance. A former record company executive and the dumped ex-girlfriend of a rising rock star find each other and make beautiful music together. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opens limited release July 2; expands wide July 11). RATING: 2.0 Mark Ruffalo is becoming one of my go-to actors and Keira Knightley is always easy on the eyes.
THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ (FilmBuff) Genre: Documentary. The story of Swartz, founder of Reddit and creator of the RSS protocol whose life ended tragically at 26. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.5 Those who know the story know that Swartz is a modern hero.
JACKPOT (Doppelganger) Genre: Crime Comedy. The sole survivor of an adult book store shootout in Sweden relates to police how it all started with a winning soccer pool ticket. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 From acclaimed author Jo Nesbo with a kind of Coen Brothers sheen.
LA BARE (Main Street) Genre: Documentary. After performing in Magic Mike, actor Joe Manganiello was moved to explore the world of male stripping further and set his sights on one of the more well-known establishments of the art in Dallas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 A compelling story of the real guys who take off their clothes and the sometimes tragic consequences.
SNOWPIERCER (Radius) Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller. Revolution is in the air on a train which contains the last vestiges of humanity during an Ice Age created by a failed experiment to halt climate change. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Based on a French graphic novel and directed by the Korean master Bong Joon-ho, the trailer looks incredible.
THEY CAME TOGETHER (Lionsgate) Genre: Romantic Comedy Parody. A corporate piranha falls for the small business owner his company is threatening to shut down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 While the cast looks incredible, the trailer kind of left me flat.
TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION (Paramount) Genre: Science Fiction. Following the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon the world is picking up the pieces in a post-Transformers era but a greater threat lies ahead. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.6 The franchise resumes with Mark Wahlberg in the lead and Dinobots!
VIOLETTE (Adopt) Genre: Biographical Drama. The complicated relationship between writer Violette Leduc and Simone de Beauvoir. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 I’m not familiar with Leduc’s work but I do know it is some of the earliest feminist writing in the world.
WHITEY: THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA VS. JAMES J. BULGER (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. The tale of gangster Whitey Bulger and his fight against the United States that has called into question our entire system of law enforcement. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Provocative look at a saga that has sent shock waves throughout the entire law enforcement community.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault in Our Stars, Obvious Child, 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Jersey Boys, Think Like a Man Too, Begin Again, Transformers: Age of Extinction

2014 Summer Movie Preview


summer movie preview 2014After a difficult winter and a spring that seemed to come too late, finally the summer is just around the corner and with it the big Hollywood blockbusters we’ve been waiting all year for. Summer movie fans are literally champing at the bit to sink their teeth into this year’s crop of blockbuster goodness. Before we get started looking at what the multiplex has to offer, a quick review of the summer of 2013 is in order.

Last summer, as expected, Iron Man 3 led the way with a total domestic box office take of $409M which translated to $1.2B worldwide. There was also Despicable Me 2 which was the number one family film of the summer, just beating out Monsters University. Fast and Furious 6 starring the late Paul Walker also did huge box office. A seventh film will be out although not this summer as his untimely death caused production to shut down. He’ll appear in the movie but the part will be rewritten to explain his absence. Man of Steel was a big hit for DC Comics and Warner Brothers and has led to a very much anticipated Batman vs. Superman movie, currently scheduled for 2016. World War Z did big numbers despite negative reviews and some fan backlash. Star Trek Into Darkness continued JJ Abrams box office hot streak as expected.

This year has its share of expectations, although many are pointing to next summer as the year to look forward to as far as big productions go. Even so, there are plenty of reasons to plunk down the cash and hit the theater rather than wait for it to appear on Netflix or another streaming service.

The net was all aflutter after the trailer for Godzilla showed up. The venerable Toho monster is making a return to the big screen and being given a modern update and the rubber lizard never looked better. While DC will be absent from theaters this year, Marvel continues to be well represented with Guardians of the Galaxy, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past all looking to continue milking the cash cow that have been Marvel movies over the past decade.

Sequels will continue to get plenty of play this summer as we eagerly (or not so much) look forward to 22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Think Like a Man Too, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Step Up: All In, The Expendables 3 and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.

Those looking for a laugh should get plenty with Neighbors, Chef, Tammy, The Fluffy Movie, Think Like a Man Too, 22 Jump Street, Sex Tape, Moms Night Out, Walk of Shame, Blended and A Million Ways to Die in the West to choose from. Those looking to be scared can get the heebie jeebies from Deliver Us From Evil, The Sacrament, The Purge: Anarchy, Godzilla, Stage Fright, Jessabelle and As Above So Below. Those looking for wonder can find their sci-fi fix in such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Guardians of the Galaxy, Lucy, Edge of Tomorrow, Jupiter Ascending, Earth to Echo, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and The Giver. Those looking for fantasy will no doubt embrace Maleficent, Mood Indigo and Hercules while those looking to get their grooves on will flock to Get On Up, Jersey Boys, One Chance and Step Up All In. Those looking for family entertainment will be cheered that despite no Pixar offerings coming their way this summer (for the first time in a very long time) there will still be choices in How to Train Your Dragon 2, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Earth to Echo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.

The stars are always out in the summer as you can catch sightings of Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Sylvester Stallone, Melissa McCarthy, Adam Sandler, Jason Statham, Seth Rogen, Jamie Foxx, Channing Tatum, Kevin Hart, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Walken, Drew Barrymore, Mila Kunis, Andrew Garfield, Dwayne Johnson, Gary Oldman, Jason Segel, Peter Dinklage, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Cameron Diaz, Zoe Saldana, Dan Aykroyd, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, Jay Baruchel, Jim Caviezel, Jon Hamm, Ian McKellen, Harrison Ford, Jeff Bridges, Patrick Stewart, Paul Giamatti, Bruce Willis, Megan Fox, Chris Pratt, Octavia Spencer, Eric Bana, Dane Cook, John Hurt, Halle Berry, Keira Knightley, Jonah Hill, Emily Blunt, Elizabeth Banks, Dane DeHaan, Jennifer Lawrence, Seth McFarlane, Sharlto Copley, Jet Li, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Dustin Hoffman, Rosario Dawson, Zac Efron, Wesley Snipes, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, James McAvoy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Pratt, Mel Gibson, Susan Sarandon, Anna Paquin, Ian McShane, Scarlett Johansson, Stanley Tucci, Taraji P. Henson, Hugh Jackman, Antonio Banderas Sofia Vergara, Liam Neeson and Emma Stone.

So there’s a lot of star-watching to be done and a lot of big thrills waiting for us in the multiplex. It’s time for shorts and tank top weather; it’s time for flip flops and ice cream and picnics. School’s out, vacations are on and the box office is open. What are you hanging around here for? Dig in!

MAY

Not one but two Marvel movies are likely to dominate the box office landscape as the Summer season kicks off. We can also look forward to a return of a classic movie monster, a look at a classic Disney villain and the reunion of two leads from a classic romantic comedy.

X-Men-Days of Future Past

BIG KAHUNA

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage
STORY: In a future where mutants have been nearly wiped out to extinction, the surviving X-Men must find a way to send Wolverine into the past – to convince Professor X to unite the X-Men and stop the dystopian future from ever occurring.
PROSPECTS: One of the most acclaimed story arcs in comic history comes to the big screen and the Internet has been ranting and raving about the action-packed trailers as the casts of the original X-Men movies and the most recent X-Men: First Class are united.
OBSTACLES: We may be oversaturated with superhero movies as Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released in April and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 only three weeks before this one.
FACTOID: This will mark the seventh appearance as Jackman as Wolverine, the most any comic book character has been played by the same actor. Jackman is also the only actor to appear in every X-Men film.

TIKI GODS

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx, Campbell Scott, Sally Field, Paul Giamatti, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore
STORY: As Spider-Man is fighting more powerful villains, Peter Parker slowly comes to the realization that Oscorp may be at the center of it – and that they have something quite sinister in mind.
PROSPECTS: One of the most successful film franchises of all time just keeps on swinging and while there are is still some grumbling about the franchise, that hasn’t translated into lost revenue as of yet.
OBSTACLES: There is some dissatisfaction among the fan community about Garfield and director Marc Webb. One can’t help but wonder too if the movie might have too many villains as was the main complaint about Spider-Man 3.
FACTOID: This is the longest Spider-Man film to date, clocking in at 2 hours and 22 minutes.

GODZILLA
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, David Strathairn, Bryan Cranston, Andy Serkis
STORY: A gigantic prehistoric creature re-surfaces to wreak havoc on modern civilization.
PROSPECTS: The trailer has absolutely blown the Internet’s collective mind and has fanboys, nerds, geeks and movie buffs all frothing at the mouth for the movie to open.
OBSTACLES: Other than the original Japanese film, there haven’t been any truly decent Godzilla movies and most American audiences may well only know the Roland Emmerich abortion that still plays on cable regularly.
FACTOID: This is the last collaboration between Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers before Legendary signed a new contract with Universal.

MALEFICENT
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Brenton Thwaites
STORY: Betrayal turns a pure-hearted young woman into a foul enchantress who puts a terrible curse on the daughter of her betrayer. However, she eventually discovers that this cursed daughter may be the key to peace in the kingdom and relieve the darkness in her own heart.
PROSPECTS: Maleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic and popular villains. The trailer looks pretty durn spectacular and Disneyphiles are eagerly awaiting this.
OBSTACLES: Two Snow White movies and now a fantasy epic based on the villain from Sleeping Beauty? Might once again be saturating the market.
FACTOID: The film has the largest budget ever awarded to a first-time feature director.

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Seth McFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Neil Patrick Harris, Sarah Silverman
STORY: A courage-challenged sheep farmer is buoyed by the appearance of a mysterious and beautiful woman to take on a wicked gunfighter in a showdown to protect his town.
PROSPECTS: McFarlane’s Ted was a huge hit and the trailer for this one looks as funny as any I’ve ever seen.
OBSTACLES: Westerns have been pretty much box office poison for some time with few exceptions.
FACTOID: Theron had to wear a wig as she had shaved her head for her role in Mad Max: Fury Road.

DARK HORSE

BELLE
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2014
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Sarah Gadon, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Matthew Goode
STORY: The true story of a mixed race illegitimate daughter of a Royal Admiral raised by his aristocratic great-uncle. She would go on to influence Lord Mansfield in his role of ending slavery in Great Britain.
PROSPECTS: Fox Searchlight has a track record with the subject of slavery with 12 Years a Slave to their credit and they’ve been promoting this heavily as limited release films go.
OBSTACLES: Big English period pieces have not fared well in the United States since the heyday of Merchant-Ivory.
FACTOID: Director Amma Asante is an English writer-director who is best known for her role on the British TV series Grange Hill.

SURF’S UP

May 2, 2014

WALK OF SHAME (Focus World) which opens in limited release concerns an ambitious TV news reporter who has a one-night stand on the eve of the most important job interview of her career who finds herself stranded across town without her wallet, ID or means of getting to the interview. It’s a comedy folks and stars Elizabeth Banks. Also opening in limited release IDA (Music Box) is a Polish film in black and white about a nun just prior to taking her vows in 1962 forced to spend time with a relative she didn’t know she had who drops the bombshell that she is in fact Jewish. This played the Florida Film Festival this past month; you can read the review here.

May 9, 2014

In NEIGHBORS (Universal) a suburban college town couple’s lives are disturbed when a frat moves in next door. Seth Rogen and Zac Efron star. MOM’S NIGHT OUT (TriStar) gives a group of frazzled moms an opportunity to put on high heels, drink adult beverages, eat out at a nice restaurant and enjoy a night of adult fun while their husbands watch the kids. Of course not everything goes according to plan. LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime) is an animated feature set in the land of Oz but not based on the work of L. Frank Baum but on the books by his great-grandson. Parents, be warned. CHEF (Open Road) stars Jon Favreau as a fine dining chef who quits his job to escape an overbearing owner and decides to open up a food truck instead. It is opening in limited release but should expand wide later in the month.

May 16, 2014

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) is based on a true story about a sports agent, desperate to find a new client who has the scheme of sponsoring a competition in India to find the first major league baseball players from India. Jon Hamm stars.

May 23, 2014

BLENDED (Warner Brothers) reunited Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer) as two single parents who don’t much like each other but whose families are thrown together on a fabulous African vacation. WORDS AND PICTURES (Roadside Attractions) is opening in limited release after playing the Florida Film Festival in April and stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche as a couple of teachers at an exclusive prep school who motivate their students by creating a competition over what’s more important; words or pictures.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

IRON MAN 3 (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $200 Million. Domestic Gross: $409.0M Total: $1.21 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (Paramount) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $228.8M Total: $467.4M Verdict: Profitable.
THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $144.8M Total: $351.0M Verdict: Hit.
EPIC (20th Century Fox) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $107.5M Total: $268.4M Verdict: Profitable.
WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $166,243 Total: $166,243. Verdict: Likely Lost Money.
FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (Universal) Budget: $160M. Domestic Gross: $238.7M Total: $788.7M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) Budget: $103M. Domestic Gross: $112.2M Total: $362.0M Verdict: Hit.
AFTER EARTH (Columbia) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $60.5M Total: $243.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $117.7M Total: $351.7 Verdict: Big Hit.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.3M Total: $1.3M Verdict: Likely Broke Even.
PEEPLES (Lionsgate) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $9.2M Total: $9.3M Verdict: Flop.

 

JUNE

While many of the May blockbusters continue to dominate the box office in June, there still are some potential sizzlers that come out as the days built towards the shortest of the year. Michael Bay brings back an 80s cultural icon that has become a 21st century blockbuster franchise, a return to a television cult favorite turned into a surprise comedy hit, a hit Broadway musical comes to the big screen and while Pixar is taking the summer off, one of DreamWorks’ hit animated features gets a sequel.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

THE BIG KAHUNA

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Kelsey Grammer, Li Bingbing, Sophia Myles, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller
STORY: A car mechanic and his daughter make a discovery that will bring the attention of the Autobots, the Decepticons and a paranoid government official directly on them.
PROSPECTS: Losing Shia LaBeouf and gaining Wahlberg is a trade up in the minds of many. The appearance of the Dinobots is also a welcome sight for fans of the original 80s television show. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the most recent film in the franchise to date, was by far the best.
OBSTACLES: The enthusiasm for the film franchise seems to be waning somewhat.
FACTOID: Michael Bay originally intended to give up his director’s chair for further films in the series and remain on only in the role of a producer, but changed his mind after hearing the story idea for the new film.

TIKI GODS

EDGE OF TOMORROW
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Lara Pulver, Tony Way
STORY: A green military officer, going into his first combat action during an alien invasion, is killed almost immediately. However, that’s not the end of the story; he relives the incident over and over again, each time getting more adept and lasting longer. Soon he figures out that his newfound ordeal may be the key to ultimate victory.
PROSPECTS: Tom Cruise is usually a pretty safe bet for big box office. Director Doug Liman has some hits to his credit including the first Bourne movie.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have lacked both quality and box office appeal over the past few years. The movie trailer is unfortunately using the same music that the Godawful Battle: Los Angeles trailer used.
FACTOID: Based on a Japanese graphic novel entitled All You Need is Kill.

22 JUMP STREET
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Peter Stormare, Rob Riggle, Nick Offerman, Dave Franco, Richard Grieco, Amber Stevens
STORY: The misfit undercover cop duo turn their attentions to the college campus and a drug ring there.
PROSPECTS: The first movie was a surprise hit and Tatum and Hill made an effective comedy team. The creative team is all back as well as most of the actors.
OBSTACLES: The trailer was underwhelming and the buzz on this one is much less pervasive than on the first film.
FACTOID: No script revisions were done before filming due to directors Phil Lord and Chris Mille being busy with The LEGO Movie.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington, Djimon Honsou, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
STORY: Vikings and dragons have learned to co-exist but the peace is threatened by the warlord Drago who wants all the dragons for himself. Help will come to Hiccup and Toothless from a most unexpected source.
PROSPECTS: With Pixar taking the summer off, that leaves the family film market essentially all to this movie. Even if it didn’t, the first movie was a wild success and kids have been eating up all the TV shows and direct-to-video releases.
OBSTACLES: Not many.
FACTOID: Dean Deblois, who co-directed the first film with Chris Sanders, will be going it alone this time as Sanders was concentrating on The Croods.

DARK HORSE

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willem Dafoe, Laura Dern, Mike Brbiglia, Nat Wolff, Sam Trammell, Emily Preachey, Lotte Verbeek
STORY: Two teens stricken with cancer find love and meaning, vowing to make the most of their time whether they have all the time in the world or mere moments.
PROSPECTS: Based on a beloved young adult book, perceptive teen girls may wind up flocking to this. Elgort is a handsome young man who no doubt will set some hearts to fluttering.
OBSTACLES: This is a low-key film that will have to struggle to find space at the multiplex amid all the big loud blockbusters taking p screens.
FACTOID: Woodley and Elgort both appear in Divergent – that time playing brother and sister.

SURF’S UP

June 6, 2014

In OBVIOUS CHILD (A24) a standup comedian who has been trying to break through for years loses her job, gets dumped by her boyfriend and discovers she’s pregnant just in time for Valentine’s Day. Jenny Slate stars as a woman who finds herself having to take stock and be a grown-up for the first time in her life. THE SACRAMENT (Magnet) which opens in limited release concerns a pair of reporters and a photographer investigating a religious cult in Central America that takes a chilling turn as you might expect in a Ti West movie. Both films played at this year’s Florida Film Festival.

June 13, 2014

LULLABY (Relativity) is an ensemble drama about the last 48 hours of a patient who has determined to take himself off of life support and end his life with dignity while he still can, bringing home his estranged son who uses the opportunity to mend fences and make peace with his past. THE ROVER (A24) is set in a dystopian future where society has collapsed and lawlessness reigns; when a man’s car is stolen by a gang, he forces a wounded member of that gang to help him track down the gang and reclaim what is his. Sounds a bit Mad Max-y to me. In any case, this is opening up in limited release but is set to expand wider on June 20th. In THE SIGNAL (Focus), a trio of college students on a Southwestern road trip find themselves in a waking nightmare; the movie is scheduled to open in limited release and then gradually expand on June 20th and June 27th.

June 20, 2014

JEFSEY BOYS (Warner Brothers) is based on the hit Broadway musical based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Clint Eastwood directs. THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (Screen Gems) is the sequel to the surprise hit comedy with an all-star cast as a group of women and men try to outwit and outthink one another in the ongoing war between the sexes.

June 27, 2014

Opening in limited release, SNOWPIERCER (Radius) is set during the next Ice Age when all of humanity that remains lives aboard a train that travels the globe on which revolution is brewing.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

MAN OF STEEL (Warner Brothers) Budget: $225 Million. Domestic Gross: $291.1M Total: $377.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $268.5M Total: $743.6M Verdict: Big Hit.
WORLD WAR Z (Paramount) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $202.4M Total: $540.0M Verdict: Made Money.
THIS IS THE END (Columbia) Budget: $32M. Domestic Gross: $101.5M Total: $126.0M Verdict: Hit.
UNFINISHED SONG (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.7M Total: $7.0M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $43M. Domestic Gross: $159.6M Total: $229.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $73.1M Total: $205.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE PURGE (Universal) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $64.5M Total: $89.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) Budget: $58M. Domestic Gross: $44.7M Total: $93.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BLING RING (A24) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $5.9M Total: $19.2M Verdict: Made Money.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $4.3M Total: $4.3M Verdict: Likely Made Money.

JULY

While July is usually an imposing month for the box office, oddly enough this year looks a little tame. While the rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise gets a new sequel, it joins the second installment of a new horror franchise, Disney’s sole animated feature of the summer, a new sci-fi film from the Wachowskis and the second of two big budget movies this year about a mythological hero.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

THE BIG KAHUNA

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES
RELEASE DATE: July 11, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Gary Oldman, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo
STORY: After a devastating virus decimates the human population, the surviving humans and genetically enhanced apes battle for supremacy to become the planet’s dominant species.
PROSPECTS: The box office numbers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes was impressive enough that not only a sequel was warranted but it was given a cushy spot on the release schedule. The competition is unusually weak for July.
OBSTACLES: James Franco has bowed out and there are no major stars to draw in a fan base here. A surprise blockbuster could really take away a good deal of audience for this.
FACTOID: Judy Greer’s husband is reportedly a huge fan of the series and pressured her to take the role when it was offered.

TIKI GODS

TAMMY
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh
STORY: After the worst day ever – losing her car, her job and her husband in a single day – a road trip with her grandma to Niagara Falls might just be what Tammy needs.
PROSPECTS: McCarthy has become the queen of summer comedy and with obvious Thelma and Louise references in the offing, this could be the summer’s biggest hit comedy.
OBSTACLES: Haven’t really seen the publicity blitz that has accompanied other McCarthy movies which could be a telltale sign that the studio doesn’t have faith in the film.
FACTOID: Both Shirley MacLaine and Debbie Reynolds were considered for the part that Sarandon ultimately got; McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone directed.

JUPITER ASCENDING
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Terry Gilliam
STORY: A Chicago cleaning woman discovers that she is heir to a fabulous fortune – in outer space. However, there are forces who would rather that she stayed not just on the Earth but under it.
PROSPECTS: The Wachowskis are among the most visionary directors today and have constructed what looks to be an epic space opera.
OBSTACLES: Their last two films have yielded disappointing box office returns.
FACTOID: This is the first film the Wachowskis have directed in 3D.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Frank Grillo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K. Williams, Carmen Ejogo, Cortney Palm, Edwin Hodge, Amy Palfrath, Nicholas Gonzalez
STORY: A young couple find themselves trapped outside miles from home during the annual purge and must dodge roaming gangs of psychopaths to find safety.
PROSPECTS: The first film was a massive hit and a sequel was quickly greenlit and filmed.
OBSTACLES: None of the original cast returns and the sequel was put together so quickly that no box office names could be signed on.
FACTOID: Both films in the franchise were written and directed by James DeMonaco.

DARK HORSE

WISH I WAS HERE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2014
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Zach Braff, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Ashley Greene, Jim Parsons, Joey King, Mandy Patinkin, Donald Faison, Pierce Gagnon
STORY: A young man finds himself at the crossroads of his life, questioning his choices and looking to reinvent himself and change his future.
PROSPECTS: Braff has a fairly rabid cult following from Scrubs and Garden State was a big indie hit.
OBSTACLES: He’s never really had anything more than a cult following and his humor can be fairly dry.
FACTOID: Braff used a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. He had hoped to get $2 million but wound up raising $3 million instead.

SURF’S UP

July 2, 2014

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Screen Gems) is based on the real-life cases of a New York City cop who investigated the strange and inexplicable – kind of an NYPD X-Files. Eric Bana stars. EARTH TO ECHO (Relativity) involves three young boys who receive cryptic messages on their cell phones that lead them to an extraterrestrial being that needs help returning to his distant planet. E.T. phone home, anyone?

July 4, 2014

In BEGIN AGAIN (Weinstein), a down on his luck ex-record company executive and a young singer just dumped by her rock star boyfriend get together to make records any way they can. Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo headline.

July 11, 2014

AND SO IT GOES… (Clarius) is the latest from Rob Reiner and stars Michael Douglas as a self-centered real estate agent whose life is turned upside-down by the arrival of a granddaughter he never knew he had. THE FLUFFY MOVIE (Open Road) presents comedian Gabriel Iglesias in one of his sold-out standup concerts. ROAD TO PALOMA (Anchor Bay), opening in limited release, stars Jason Momoa as a Native American on the run from the FBI after avenging the rape and murder of his mother. He joins forces with a hard luck musician as they travel the vast emptiness of the American West looking for redemption. Momoa also directed.

July 18, 2014

PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (Disney) returns Dusty Crophopper whose racing days are likely over due to a damaged engine. Looking for a new career, he decides to join the wild and reckless crew of firefighting aircraft who patrol the National Parks. I ORIGINS (Fox Searchlight) is also opening in limited release and is about an oculist whose research into the human eye yields a new understanding not only scientifically but spiritually as well.

July 25, 2014

HERCULES (MGM/Paramount) stars Dwayne Johnson as the legendary hero. Let us only hope that this is better than The Legend of Hercules although I’m not holding out hope after seeing the miserable trailer. In SEX TAPE (Columbia) a couple looking to reignite the passion in their marriage makes a sex tape. When the footage is inadvertently uploaded to their Cloud, they realize their bedroom fun is no longer private; they will have to act quickly to make sure that video doesn’t end up laid bare for all to see. STEP UP ALL IN (Summit) is the latest in the dance franchise.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

PACIFIC RIM (Warner Brothers) Budget: $190M. Domestic Gross: $101.8M Total: $411.0M. Verdict: Made Money.
THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $132.6M Total: $414.8M Verdict: Hit.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) Budget: $76M. Domestic Gross: $368.1M Total: $970.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
GROWN-UPS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $133.7M Total: $247.0M Verdict: Hit.
BLUE JASMINE (Sony Classics) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $33.4M Total: $95.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) Budget: $105M. Domestic Gross: $71.0M Total: $347.6M Verdict: Hit.
TURBO (DreamWorks) Budget: $33M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $140.5M Verdict: Hit.
THE CONJURING (New Line) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $137.4M Total: $318.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE LONE RANGER (Disney) Budget: $215M. Domestic Gross: $89.3M Total: $260.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
RED 2 (Summit) Budget: $84M. Domestic Gross: $53.3M Total: $148.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) Budget: $900,000. Domestic Gross: $16.1M Total: $16.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) Budget: $4.8M. Domestic Gross: $779,188. Total: $10.3M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $21.5M Total: $23.2M Verdict: Big Hit.

AUGUST

The hottest month of the year is rarely the same for the box office. Generally the big movies from previous months are still dominating the box office tallies although usually one or two movies break through to become big hits themselves. This year we’ve got a good shot with the latest Marvel release taking a more galactic view, a live action return of a beloved 80s kids show franchise, the latest installment in an all-star action franchise, the biopic of a soul legend and the sequel to a modern noir hit.

Guardians of the Galaxy

THE BIG KAHUNA

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Lee Pace, Djimon Hounsou, Karen Gillan, Benicio del Toro
STORY: A brash egocentric thief and adventurer steals a mysterious orb coveted by the nefarious and persistent Ronan. To try and protect himself and his loot, the thief – who calls himself Star Lord (although nobody else does) – enlists the aid of a ragtag and disparate bunch of galactic outlaws who must make a final stand to protect the galaxy from the power of the orb.
PROSPECTS: It’s Marvel and it has almost no competition. What do you think?
OBSTACLES: This is a very different Marvel movie that relies on minor characters and no superheroes. It is uncertain whether a mainstream audience will buy into it.
FACTOID: Gillan wore a wig in Oculus because she had shaved her head for this film.

TIKI GODS

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Whoopi Goldberg
STORY: Four strange, mutated turtles with sick ninja skills living in the storm drains of New York City arise from the shadows to battle the evil that is the Shredder and his Foot Clan.
PROSPECTS: One of the most popular animated shows of all time is rebooted for the big screen for the second time. With a radical budget, you can bet that the turtles got gourmet Wolfgang Puck pizza in craft services.
OBSTACLES: The kids who loved the show during its height in the ’80s are now in their 30s and 40s. The movie has kind of fallen under the radar given that the Transformers are also showing up in the multiplex this summer.
FACTOID: There was an uproar among fans when the film was originally to be released as Ninja Turtles without the Teenage Mutant. The complete title was later restored.

THE EXPENDABLES 3
RELEASE DATE: August 15, 2014
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammer
STORY: A ruthless arms dealer who co-founded the Expendables before leaving in an acrimonious split with Barney is determined to destroy his old team. Barney recruits a new generation of Expendables to take on their most personal battle yet.
PROSPECTS: It will be a hoot to see Snipes onscreen again, and the first two movies have brought a lot of butts into August multiplex seats.
OBSTACLES: Neither one of the first two Expendables films were particularly inspiring and the competition is a little bit stiffer this year.
FACTOID: Statham was almost killed in a car crash when the brakes on the truck he was in failed and the truck went into the sea.

INTO THE STORM
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sumpter, Nathan Kress, Matt Walsh, London Elise Moore, Kyle Davis, Scott Lawrence, Jon Reep
STORY: In a single day, a town is ravaged by an onslaught of deadly tornadoes. While most of the town runs for shelter, the storm chasers run towards danger.
PROSPECTS: Tornadoes are a very visually dramatic natural disaster and as Twister proved, have big box office appeal.
OBSTACLES: There haven’t been a lot of disaster movies lately and the ones that have come along have been hot messes.
FACTOID: Extras on the set referred to actor Scott Lawrence as Obama due to his facial resemblance to the President.

FRANK MILLER’S SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2014
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Powers Boothe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Lloyd
STORY: A prequel to the last Sin City film.
PROSPECTS: Terrific cast and the original Sin City remains a cult favorite.
OBSTACLES: It’s been nine years since the last film and the sequel has bounced around the schedule a bit. That doesn’t mean as much however since this is a Weinstein film.
FACTOID: Eva Green recently starred as Artemesia in 300: Rise of an Empire which was also based on a Frank Miller graphic novel.

DARK HORSE

ONE CHANCE
RELEASE DATE: August 29, 2014
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: James Corden, Julie Walters, Mackenzie Crook, Colm Meaney, Jemima Rooper, Alexandra Roach, Stanley Townsend
STORY: The inspirational true story of Paul Potts, a shy and bullied shop keeper’s assistant who has a passion for opera. Despite having doors slammed in his face consistently, he perseveres and enters Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent show where he will capture the hearts of millions.
PROSPECTS: Potts overcomes such adversity that all of us can relate to no matter what sort of music you’re into or what country you’re from.
OBSTACLES: It is unlikely the U.S. will embrace a movie in which opera plays such a central role although you never know.
FACTOID: As has become somewhat standard for Weinstein, the movie has bounced around the schedule after being originally set to open last year.

SURF’S UP

August 1, 2014

CALVARY (Fox Searchlight) stars Brendan Gleeson as a good but troubled Irish priest whose parishioners are prone to all sorts of troubles, some comic and some less so. While this is currently listed for wide release, expect it to get a limited release instead. GET ON UP (Universal) is the biopic of soul legend James Brown with Chadwick Bozeman (42) in the title role.

August 8, 2014

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) is the latest from director Lasse Halstrom and stars Helen Mirren in a clash of cultures between a classic French restaurant and an upstart Indian restaurant in a bucolic French village. In LUCY (Universal) an unwilling drug mule gains amazing powers when the drugs accidentally enter her system. Scarlett Johansson stars and Luc Besson directs.

August 13, 2014

LET’S BE COPS (20th Century Fox) sees two hard luck fellas dress as cops for a costume party, get mistaken for real cops and like the sensation so much they decide to take it a step further, getting them involved with dirty cops and mobsters in the process.

August 15, 2014

In AS ABOVE, SO BELOW (Universal/Legendary) a group of students making a trek through the catacombs of Paris meet an unspeakable horror that will take them to the very edge of sanity – and beyond. DESERT DANCER (Relativity) an young Iranian man risks everything to achieve his dream of being a dancer despite the obstacle that it is forbidden in Iran. Based on the true story of Afshin Ghaffarian. THE GIVER (Weinstein) posits a future in which all memory of the past rests with a single person. As a young man prepares to take on this responsibility, he discovers that the truth is not what he was taught it was. Based on the Newberry Award-winning young adult sci-fi novel. LIFE AFTER BETH (A24) is about a teenager, devastated by the sudden death of his girlfriend. When she miraculously returns, he is overjoyed but he soon discovers she isn’t the girl she used to be. THE TRIP TO ITALY (Magnolia) which opens in limited release reunited Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan as loose versions of themselves who are taking a driving tour through Italy to review restaurants, eat great food and do hysterical celebrity impressions. This was the opening night film at this year’s Florida Film Festival and it was indeed terrific.

August 22, 2014

In IF I STAY (Warner Brothers/MGM) a young woman involved in a terrible car crash wakes up to find herself out of body and faced with a decision; to fight to stay alive or let go and move on to the next life. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) chronicles the story of Bob Ladouceur, head football coach at De La Salle High School in Northern California who had the nation’s longest winning streak in sports history come to an end. Faced with that adversity as well as one even more dire, the school and team come together for a moment that shines beyond glory.

August 27, 2014

NOVEMBER MAN (Relativity) stars Pierce Brosnan as an ex-CIA operative pitted against his former pupil in a very personal mission. Based on the popular series of novels. UNDERDOGS (Weinstein) finds the Foosball players come to life from a table owned by a would-be hero. He will need their help in order to save his town and win back the woman he loves.

August 29, 2014

In JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) a young woman returns home to the Louisiana bayou to find a malevolent spirit waiting there for her – and this time it has no intention of letting her leave. THE LOFT (Universal) is where five married guys indulge their wildest fantasies away from the prying eyes of their wives. When they discover the dead body of an unknown woman, they realize that one of their number must be responsible. Opening in limited release, THE CONGRESS (Drafthouse) is an animated feature with Robin Wright playing an actress whose likeness is purchased by a film studio so that a portion of her appears in a variety of futures both dystopic and utopic.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

ELYSIUM (TriStar) Budget: $115M. Domestic Gross: $93.1M Total: $286.1M Verdict: Made Money.
KICK-ASS 2 (Universal) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $28.8M Total: $60.8M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $31.2M Total: $90.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE WORLD’S END (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $26.0M Total: $46.1M Verdict: Broke Even.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $68.6M Total: $199.9M Verdict: Made Money.
ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US (TriStar) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $28.9M Total: $68.5M Verdict: Hit.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $150.4M Total: $270.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $90.3M Total: $219.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
PARANOIA (Relativity) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $7.4M Total: $13.8M Verdict: Flop.
CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $5.8M Total: $6.2M Verdict: Probably Lost Money.
2 GUNS (Universal) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $131.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $10.5M Total: $10.5M Verdict: Flop.
THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) Budget: $1.5M. Domestic Gross: $3.5M Total: $3.6M Verdict: Broke Even.

So there it is, all wrapped up in a shiny bow just for you. The summer blockbuster season kicks off on Friday and from here on out it’ll be something to look forward to just about every week. Now, while I’m sure you’re already planning your moviegoing schedule for the summer, please do keep in mind as always that NO schedule is set in stone and that studios are wont to move movies to new dates without notice, particularly the farther out they are. There will be a good number of movies in this preview that will be bumped out to the fall or further and some may be removed from the schedule completely without explanation. Chances are within a week of this being posted there will already have been some changes. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making plans to see some or even many of the big summer flicks. After all, part of the ritual of summer is an air-conditioned multiplex, a big summer movie and a big tub of buttery popcorn with an ice-cold soda to wash it down with. You can get further details on films with our weekly previews and our monthly Four-Warned series and of course Cinema365 will be out on the front lines bringing you reviews of as many of these as we can get to. And it doesn’t end there – at the end of August look for our Fall/Holiday preview as we get set to take a look at the movies to see in the last four months of the year, which will include Interstellar (Christopher Nolan’s latest), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Paranormal Activity 5, the conclusion of the Tolkein trilogy The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Night at the Museum 3, a new version of the classic Broadway musical Annie and Paddington, bringing the beloved children’s book character Paddington Bear to life. Until then, we’ll be looking for you at the multiplex!