The Purge: Anarchy


Purge biker chic.

Purge biker chic.

(2014) Thriller (Universal) Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Zoe Soul, Justina Machado, John Beasley, Jack Conley, Noel G., Castulo Guerra, Michael K. Williams, Edwin Hodge, Keith Stanfield, Roberta Valderrama, Niko Nicotera, Bel Hernandez, Lily Knight, Jasper Cole, Brandon Keener, Amy Pierce-Francis, Chad Morgan, Dale Dye, Amy Paffrath. Directed by James DeMonaco

In a brutal environment, survival itself requires more brutality. When the world is kill or be killed, so must you in order to survive it. The way things are going in this world, the future won’t be for the faint of heart.

As explained in last year’s surprise hit The Purge, the New Founding Fathers – a kind of crypto-fascist neo-Conservative Tea Party on steroids gun-loving bunch have taken over the country and given the people what they wanted – safety, stability and prosperity. Of course, only if you happen to be white and wealthy.

The rest of us have the Purge, an annual night in which all laws are suspended and everything is legal including rape, murder and destruction of property. It is a night to, as the newscasters enthusiastically endorse, unleash the beast. As the day draws to a close and the Purge draws near, people look at each other nervously, murmuring to each other “stay safe” and praying that whatever protection they have be they state of the art security systems with steel window  covers and titanium doors, or plywood nailed hastily over doors and windows will hold against the onslaught of the night.

Sergeant (Grillo) is grimly gearing up for the evening. He has a small arsenal at his disposal and he means to go out hunting. Sweet waitress Eva (Ejogo) returns home to her ailing pop (Beasley) and her rebellious daughter (Soul) – is there any other kind – and prepares to ride out the storm as best she can. She can’t afford her papa’s medicine and her bitchy boss won’t give her a raise so that she can live decently. She is one of the working poor and although she does her best to make a decent life for her family there’s not much she can do on the paycheck of a diner waitress.

 

Liz (Sanchez) and Shane (Gilford) are a couple who are on the verge of splitting up. They can’t even agree on who to tell first. Picking up groceries on the way home, their car breaks down as the sun begins to set and they know they’re in deep trouble. They will have to find a way to safety on a night when there is none to be had and when every human they see will be out to kill them.

All of these five’s paths will coalesce in a moment of conscience and Sergeant will find himself trying to lead these people ill-equipped to survive in the urban jungle to safety, all the while his mission of vengeance uppermost in his mind. The night though is long and the odds are longer that they’ll make it through.

I will say right off the bat that this is a slight improvement from the first film. While there continue to be holes in logic and common sense in the overall story I found there to be fewer in the sequel than in the original and the pacing of the story was much more frenetic. The political overtones continue to be fairly blatant – this is certainly a fairly thinly veiled uppercut aimed at the American right, particularly the neo-cons in the Tea Party and the religious right (before nearly every murder, the lily-white upper crust Purge participants pray, invoking God’s blessings on the New Founding Fathers). I can’t imagine Fox News will love this movie particularly and I can’t say as I blame them for once.

 

Grillo who has been a sterling supporting performer for years finally gets a lead role and quite frankly I see more of the same in his future. He’s got the brooding Clint Eastwood-esque anti-hero quality to him only there’s a little more warmth to him. He definitely carries the movie along and stands out in a group of solid but unremarkable actors.

Another issue I have with the movie is that while there’s a ton of violence, there’s no imagination to it. People just open fire with automatic weapons and pepper human bodies with bullets. Not that I expect that in a real life situation that mirrored this it would be any different, it just kind of all runs together. There’s no cleverness here, just carnage.

I think that those who liked the first movie may well like the second while those who didn’t will definitely NOT like this one. While I get the sense that the filmmakers are probably on the same side of the political aisle as I am, their views may be a little bit too extreme for me. Even Fox News has something of value once in awhile and not all conservative ideals are as bad as they are made out to be here. I’ve met plenty of compassionate conservatives although it must be admitted that there are some who the New Founding Fathers resemble very much.

 

Needless to say, this still isn’t quite good enough for me to recommend. There’s just too many plot issues and not enough well drawn-out characters to capture my interest. This is very much a one-trick pony and if you happen to like that trick, more power to you – enjoy. For those of us who need a little bit more variety in our hour and a half in the multiplex, this probably isn’t the movie to see.

REASONS TO GO: Different sort of film than the first. Grillo a promising lead.

REASONS TO STAY: Overtly political. Relentless violence. Not very thrilling as thrillers go.

FAMILY VALUES:  Lots of violence, much of it unsettling and plenty of foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The lead character, known here only as Sergeant, had most of his backstory cut from the film during post-production; his name in the script is Leo Barnes.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/27/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 56% positive reviews. Metacritic: 49/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Warriors

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New Releases for the Week of July 18, 2014


The Purge: AnarchyTHE PURGE: ANARCHY

(Universal) Frank Grillo, Michael K. Williams, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Keith Stanfield, Edwin Hodge. Directed by James DeMonaco

Has it been a year already? Oh, right, it’s time for the annual purge, a single night where the New Founding Fathers allow the people of the United States to run wild in the streets, where all crime is legal including murder and sensible people lock themselves in their fortress-like homes in order to survive the night. Not that it will help you if you aren’t wealthy enough to afford the very best protection, or if your car breaks down on the way home…or if you have some purging of your own to do. Happy purging, people.

 

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a featurette and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Horror

Rating: R (for strong disturbing violence, and language)

Aftermath

(Image) Edward Furlong, Monica Keena, William Baldwin, Andre Royo. Nine survivors of a nuclear holocaust as World War III rages gather at a farmhouse in rural Texas to await their fate. Radiation sickness, hunger, desperate refugees and their own bickering threaten to do them all in.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: NR

Le Chef

(Cohen Media Group) Jean Reno, Michael Youn, Raphaelle Agogue, Julien Boisselier. A great French chef who has become a brand name in France has found inspiration lacking as of late. The capital partner who essentially owns his restaurants is threatening to install a new chef in his own restaurant. Salvation may come in the form of a mule-headed, opinionated young chef who is brilliant and creative but impossible to get along with. A favorite at this year’s Florida Film Festival, you can read my review of the movie here.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language)

Planes: Fire and Rescue

(Disney) Starring the voices of Dane Cook, Julie Bowen, Ed Harris, Hal Holbrook. After a damaged engine puts Dusty Crophopper’s racing career in jeopardy, he decides to put his talents to good use. He joins the aerial firefighting unit guarding historic Piston Peak National Park. However, he soon finds that it isn’t all that he imagined it would be.

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

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D (opens Thursday)

Genre: Animated Feature

Rating: PG (for action and some peril)

Sex Tape

(Columbia) Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Rob Corddry, Rob Lowe. A couple whose marriage has been in the doldrums for some time decide to liven things up by making a sex tape. It works and they find their relationship clicking on all cylinders for the first time in years. However, the video – which was supposed to have been erased – ends up on their cloud which is connected to a bunch of devices they’ve given out as presents. Getting those devices back will be the easy part – keeping their sanity and their marriage together will be harder.

See the trailer, interviews, clips, premiere footage and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Comedy

Rating: R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some drug use)

Wish I Was Here

(Focus) Zach Braff, Kate Hudson, Mandy Patinkin, Josh Gad. A 30-something husband and father comes to a point in his life where he realizes that he needs to get serious about his responsibilities and grow up but that’s not an easy proposition in his family.

See the trailer, interviews, a featurette, a clip and B-roll video here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

Four-Warned: July 2014


LucyEvery 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. LUCY (1.2)
2. DELIVER US FROM EVIL (1.5)
3. DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (1.6)
4. THE PURGE: ANARCHY (1.8)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. LIFE ITSELF (1.0)
2. ALIVE INSIDE (1.2)
3. A LONG WAY DOWN (1.3)
4. MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (1.5)

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

JULY 2, 2014

DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Screen Gems) Genre: Horror. Teaming up with a renegade Catholic priest, a down-to-earth Bronx police detective bears witness to supernatural evil. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Eric Bana is a favorite and the trailer looks pretty damn spooky.
EARTH TO ECHO (Relativity) Genre: Family. A group of kids who are about to lose their homes to a highway project must find a way to rescue an extraterrestrial and help him find his way home. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 The similarities to E.T. are too much to ignore.
PREMATURE (IFC Midnight) Genre: Sex Comedy. In what seems to be a common theme lately, a high school senior relives the same day over and over again. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Describes itself as American Pie meets Groundhog Day; now why doesn’t that sound appealing at all?
SCHOOL DANCE (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. To win the heart of his high school crush, a young man must make the school’s hottest dance crew, survive her gangsta brother and his own holy terror of a mom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 A spoof of a genre that I can’t stand anyway figures to be an utter waste of my time.
TAMMY (New Line) Genre: Comedy. In the grip of a very bad day, Tammy decides to go on a road trip but the only way she can afford to do it is to take her feisty grandmother along. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Thelma and Louise done for laughs – and with Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon aboard, I’m betting this will be worth the trip.

JULY 3, 2014

NOTHING BAD CAN HAPPEN (Drafthouse) Genre: Horror. Based on actual events, a Swedish Christian punk street kid in a foster home finds himself increasingly at odds with the dysfunctional family he lives with as the cruel and vicious father tests his faith and capacity to love in ways that will drive him to his limit – and beyond. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Was an official entry at Cannes and has won numerous awards on the horror festival circuit.

JULY 4, 2014

BEYOND THE EDGE (IFC) Genre: Crime Comedy. When two rival gangs try to rob the same bank at the same time, a teller and a customer try to save the day without getting caught in the crossfire. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A very interesting trailer and a very attractive cast.
BOBBY JASOOS (Reliance) Genre: Bollywood. Perhaps the impossible dream is to become the best detective in Hyderabad; perhaps not. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Like most Bollywood films looks cheesy but fun; I do wish they’d provide an English translation on the trailers though.
GABRIELLE (DreamWorks) Genre: Horror. A high school senior suspects his new neighbor is a vampire. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.0 Was a remake of this ‘80s horror comedy really needed? And does the new version add anything?
HEATSTROKE (Phase 4) Genre: Action. On a family trip to the African desert, a research scientist accidentally runs afoul of murderous arms dealers and must evade the killers and protect his daughter and girlfriend from them as well as from the dangerous African environment. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Stephen Dorff is becoming a very capable action hero.
LIFE ITSELF (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. Roger Ebert wasn’t only the greatest film critic who ever lived; his compassion and social awareness inspired many through his long and decorated career. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Ebert was a personal hero of mine and a continuing inspiration; I’ll see this one even if I have to drive 500 miles to do it.

JULY 9, 2014

CLOSED CURTAIN (Reliance) Genre: Drama. An Iranian author, hiding inside his house with his dog, sees his life changed by the arrival of a woman fleeing for her life. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 I like the concept but the trailer doesn’t really reveal very much.

JULY 11, 2014

A LONG WAY DOWN (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Four strangers who decide to kill each on the same night meet and mutually decide to wait six weeks, becoming media sensations as an unintended consequence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 Looks really, really, REALLY good.
AFFLUENZA (FilmBuff) Genre: Drama. Escaping a middle class existence for a life of privilege and wealth, a would-be photographer watched his rich cousin’s life come crashing down around her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Interesting trailer but can’t help thinking that it has a bit of the “poor little rich girl” element to it.
BOYHOOD (IFC) Genre: Drama. Twelve years in the life of a young boy and his family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Director Richard Linklater filmed this over the course of 12 years with the same cast as the young actors literally grow up before our eyes.
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) Genre: Science Fiction. Ten years after a devastating virus has wiped out most of the human race, the genetically evolved apes led by Caesar and the remaining humans will fight it out for the role of dominant species on this planet. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 I think we can guess who wins the war.
LAND HO! (Sony Classics) Genre: Comedy. A pair of aging men, once related by marriage, try to reconnect during a trip to Iceland. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.7 I’m all for movies that celebrate the joy of life.
MADE IN AMERICA (Phase 4) Genre: Musical Documentary. At a music festival created by Jay Z to celebrate how music unites us and engages us to pursue our dreams, director Ron Howard creates a documentary designed to immerse us in that vibe. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The next best thing to being there I suppose.
RAGE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Thriller. When his daughter is kidnapped, a businessman with a dark past must revisit his violent years to get her back by any means necessary. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 I guess Nicolas Cage still has some of these awaiting release.
ROAD TO PALOMA (Anchor Bay) Genre: Thriller. A Native American on the run after avenging his mother’s murder discovers that justice has a cost. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Jason Momoa stars and directs; looks pretty gritty from where I sit.
UNDERWATER DREAMS (AMC) Genre: Documentary. Four teenage boys from an impoverished school enter an underwater robot competition against MIT and won with a robot built with parts from Home Depot. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 The ultimate underdog story.

JULY 18, 2014

ALIVE INSIDE (BOND/360) Genre: Documentary. Dan Cohen founds a nonprofit organization called Music & Memory which uses music to help reawaken memories in people the healthcare system has given up on. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.2 A celebration of life and humanity; if the trailer doesn’t move you, nothing in life will.
AMONG RAVENS (Gravitas) Genre: Drama. During a 4th of July gathering, the secrets of a family begin to emerge and have a severe effect on their 10-year-old daughter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Tries to filter a serious subject through the eyes of a 10-year-old; the trailer doesn’t work for me.
AND SO IT GOES (Clarius) Genre: Romance. A curmudgeonly realtor just wants to sell one last home and retire but when his son drops off a precocious 9-year-old granddaughter he never knew he had, his outlook changes.. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 With Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton in front of the camera and Rob Reiner behind it, this is bound to be worth a look.
I ORIGINS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Science Fiction. During his research on the human eye, a molecular biologist makes a discovery that will have implications on our spiritual and basic scientific beliefs. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An interesting take on science vs. spirituality.
MOOD INDIGO (Drafthouse) Genre: Fantasy. In order to save his love from the effects of a flower growing in her lungs, a wealthy bachelor must keep her surrounded by flowers while he develops a cure. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 The latest from French visionary Michel Gondry is bound to be visually inventive.
PERSECUTED (One Media) Genre: Thriller. Framed for murder, an evangelist goes underground to prove his innocence and stop the coming wave of persecution against American Christians. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 This is the Tea Party’s wet dream.
PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. Dusty Crophopper, facing retirement from racing due to a damaged engine, decides that he’d like to devote his life to fighting brush fires as an aerial firefighter. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.2 The first film was better than I thought it would be; it won’t take much for the second to make the same achievement.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY (Universal) Genre: Horror. The new Founding Fathers of America invite you to purge your sociopathic tendencies as innocents get caught in the crossfire. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Last year’s surprise hit gets a sequel with new cast and bigger budget; could be worth a look.
SEX TAPE (Columbia) Genre: Sex Comedy. In the aftermath of making a sex tape to spice up their love lives, a couple frantically must hunt down all the tablets they gave away as gifts when the tape is accidentally uploaded to the cloud that each tablet is preloaded with. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 From director Jake Kasdan who has proven adept at comedy.
VIDEO GAMES: THE MOVIE (Variance) Genre: Documentary. The epic rise of video games from niche business to multi-billion dollar industry. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 My son is absolutely going to go bananas for this one, produced as it is by his hero Zach Braff.
WISH I WAS HERE (Focus) Genre: Dramedy. A man at the crossroads of his life decides to redefine his performance as a son, a husband, a brother and a father. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (expanding July 25 and August 1). RATING: 1.9 Zach Braff continues on the road to redefining his career.

JULY 23, 2014

THE MASTER BUILDER (Abramorama) Genre: Drama. In the twilight of his life, an architect who has bullied his family, friends, mistresses and employees seeks to make peace with himself. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 Starring Wallace Shawn and based on an Ibsen play, this could be a film buff’s wet dream.

JULY 25, 2014

A MOST WANTED MAN (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Thriller. When a half-Chechen, half-Russian man who has been tortured nearly to death arrives in the Islamic community of a Russian city, his arrival brings chaos into the lives of a banker, a lawyer and a master spy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 A John Le Carre spy story that has one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last performances – that has must-see written all over it.
BENEATH (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. Supernatural forces are unleashed during the collapse of a coal mine, leaving the trapped miners and a female environmentalist trapped with them to battle for their lives. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Claustrophobic horror with a tinge of creature feature.
THE FLUFFY MOVIE (Open Road) Genre: Stand-Up Concert Film. Excerpts from Gabriel Iglesias’ “Unity Through Laughter” tour. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Iglesias emerged after a tough break eliminated him from Last Comic Standing to become one of the most popular stand-up comedians today.
HAPPY CHRISTMAS (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. Moving in with her novelist friend, her film director husband and their two-year-old after a break-up, a hard-partying 20-something starts to turn their lives upside down. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The latest from prolific director Joe Swanberg.
HERCULES (Paramount/MGM) Genre: Swords and Sandals. A legendary warrior tries to escape his own legend. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.9 Based on a graphic novel with a revisionist non-supernatural take on the myth.
IRONCLAD: BATTLE FOR BLOOD (XLRator) Genre: Action. One of the few survivors of the Siege of Rochester Castle returns home to defend his family against brutal Celtic raiders. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Medieval histrionics that would have been a B movie 50 years ago and still is today.
LUCY (Universal) Genre: Science Fiction. An unwilling drug mules finds the side effects of the drug that leaks into her system to be limitless. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.2 Looks like one of Luc Besson’s best and with Scarlett Johansson in the title role? Ooh La LA!
MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT (Focus) Genre: Romance. In the South of France during the Jazz Age, an English detective is brought in to unmask a swindler. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Woody Allen does Agatha Christie.
MY MAN IS A LOSER (Lionsgate) Genre: Comedy. After a ladies man’s advice to his buddies to reconnect with their wives backfires horribly, a straight shooting friend proves that the Lothario has a lot to learn when it comes to the fairer sex. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 John Stamos as a modern single ladies man…talk about dated.
VERY GOOD GIRLS (Tribeca/Well Go USA) Genre: Sex Comedy. Two young women who make a pact to lose their virginity during the summer before they head to college fall for the same guy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Anyone remember Little Foxes?

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Deliver Us From Evil, Earth to Echo, Tammy, Life Itself, Boyhood, And So It Goes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Fluffy Movie, Planes: Fire and Rescue, The Purge: Anarchy, Sex Tape, Wish I Was Here, Hercules, Lucy

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!