Thor: The Dark World


Quoth the raven, nevermore will there be barbers and razors in Asgard.

Quoth the raven, nevermore will there be barbers and razors in Asgard.

(2013) Superhero (Disney/Marvel) Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Jaimie Alexander, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo, Alice Krige, Clive Russell, Jonathan Howard, Chris O’Dowd, Talulah Riley. Directed by Alan Taylor

It is hard to achieve success when it comes to the movies, but it is harder still to maintain it. The Marvel superhero films have been on a long winning streak but has the moviegoing public tired of their celluloid adventures yet? Not according to the box office.

Thor (Hemsworth) pines away on Asgard, having had to clean up the mess that his half-brother Loki (Hiddleston) – who rots in an Asgardian prison – wrought with his invasion of Earth in The Avengers. Two years have passed since New York was trashed and Thor has been busy mopping up the results of those events, leaving Jane Foster (Portman) – his earth-born ladylove – petulant and sulky, wondering if her God-like boyfriend has dumped her.

Something called the Convergence is approaching – an event when all nine realms which include Asgard and Earth – are perfectly aligned. As it approaches the boundaries between the realms get a bit thin, causing some temporal and spacial anomalies. While Jane is investigating one of these (leaving a date with the hapless Richard (O’Dowd) to do so) she is infected by something called the Aether.

That’s a bad thing. Apparently this is the stuff that the Dark Elves planned to use at the last Convergence to bring about a return of the universe to complete darkness, something that the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Eccleston) are very eager to do. The Asgardians had gone to war with the Dark Elves to prevent this and only through the efforts of Thor’s grandfather had the forces of light prevailed. Malekith and his major-domo Kurse (Akinnuoye-Agbaje) skedaddled into a spaceship where they would remain in stasis until the Aether called them back, which when Jane is touched by the stuff is precisely what happens.

Cue Thor to fetch Jane to Asgard to see if the medicine of the Gods can help her. Cue Odin (Hopkins) to be grouchy and a bit frumpy. Cue Thor’s mom Frigga (Russo) to be far more understanding than her husband. Cue Thor’s pals Fandral (Levi), Vostagg (Stevenson), Sif (Alexander) and Hogun (Asano) to be understanding. Cue Jane’s ex-boss Dr. Erik Selvig (Skarsgard) to lose his marbles and walk around Stonehenge stark naked and muttering crazy talk about the Convergence. Cue Jane’s intern Darcy (Dennings) to be snarky and get an intern of her own (Howard). And after Thor desperately seeks his help, cue Loki to make some plans of his own.

Taking over from Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair is Alan Taylor who cut his teeth on the Game of Thrones HBO series as well as other fine TV shows but it is the adaptation of the George R.R. Martin fantasy that prepared Taylor for this big screen debut. He certainly doesn’t have any problem with the scale needed for a cinematic franchise like this. Asgard is properly awe-inspiring, the battle sequences (of which there are several) are properly epic and the heroes properly heroic.

While some critics have groused about Hemsworth as Thor, I don’t agree with their assessment. His character has a bit of an inflated ego (hey, he’s a Norse God after all and the son of the King for all that) and a bit of a maturity issue and he is well aware that his strength doesn’t lie in his intellect. He is the kind of guy who charges in to lay a beat-down on his enemies first and asks questions later. However Thor isn’t just a caricature thanks to Hemsworth who makes his personality work and be relatable to his audience. That’s nowhere near as easy as it sounds.

Hiddleston however is the star of this show in many ways. He is deliciously evil as Loki with a snarky attitude to boot. He revels in his badness but shows some depth that makes his character perhaps the most interesting one in the film. He has some of the best comic relief in the movie and also conversely some of the most poignant moments. Hiddleston is a star in the making and perhaps with this performance arrives in that sense.

The drawbacks here is that the movie drags a bit particularly in the middle and for a movie of this nature that can be a killer. Also early on some of the events are a bit confusing and are never properly explained or given context.

Fortunately the movies plusses outweigh those fairly significant minuses, making this solid entertainment that will please the superhero junkie in your family, although I predict that the fanboys will probably pick it apart and as we head into the next Marvel film will in all likelihood trash it and moan about how it has killed the Marvel franchise. They’ve done the same with Iron Man 3 which is no better or no worse than this.

REASONS TO GO: Wonderful eye candy. Hiddleston raises the bar on super-villains. Hemsworth is a terrific Thor.

REASONS TO STAY: Confusing in places. Lumbers a bit.

FAMILY VALUES:  There’s a good deal of sci-fi/comic book violence, a few bad words and some suggestive dialogue.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This the last film to be written by Don Payne (who also wrote Thor). He died of bone cancer shortly before the movie was released.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/25/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 65% positive reviews. Metacritic: 54/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Seeker: The Dark is Rising

FINAL RATING: 7/10

NEXT: What Happens in Vegas

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New Releases for the Week of November 8, 2013


Thor: The Dark World

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

(Disney/Marvel) Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Kat Dennings. Directed by Alan Taylor

After saving the Earth from an alien invasion, Thor and his father Odin find themselves facing a foe that even the combined might of Asgard cannot withstand. The twisted Malekith leads the dark elves in an implacable war against life and darkness can be the only outcome. Thor will reunite with old friends and face an impossible sacrifice if he is to save reality from annihilation.

See the trailer, promos, clips and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

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

Genre: Superhero

Rating: PG-13 (for some violence, sci-fi action and thematic material)

All is Lost

(Roadside Attractions) Robert Redford. An aging man seeks to prove himself once more by sailing around the world. The trip meets with disaster when a collision with a shipping container badly cripples the vessel which then proceeds to sail into a violent storm. Forced to abandon ship with his communications down, he has to hope for a miracle if he is to be rescued in the vast, uncaring ocean.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language)

Diana

(eOne) Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Juliet Stevenson. The former Princess of Wales, now living as a private citizen, embarks on an affair with a Pakistani heart surgeon. The complications of her fame and public limelight threaten the fragile relationship before it begins, leading her onto a road that leads into a Parisian tunnel one fateful night.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Biographical Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language, some sensuality and smoking)

How I Live Now

(Magnolia) Saoirse Ronan, Tom Holland, George MacKay, Anna Chancellor. A young American teenager visiting relatives in rural England is caught up in the chaos following a nuclear conflict in Europe. Her carefree summer days turn into a fight for survival as civilization slowly breaks down around her.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

Rating: R (for violence, disturbing image, language and some sexuality)

Please note that both About Time and 12 Years a Slave, both of which arrived in Orlando in limited release last week, have both opened in wider release this week and may be now at your local multiplex.

Four-Warned: November 2013


Thor: The Dark World

Every 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. THOR: THE DARK WORLD (1.0)
2. ENDER’S GAME (1.3)
TIE. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (1.3)
4. ABOUT TIME (1.4)
TIE. OLDBOY (1.4)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. COUSIN JULES (1.0)
2. BEST MAN DOWN (1.3)
3. MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (1.4)
4. PHILOMENA (1.5)

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

NOVEMBER 1, 2013

ABOUT TIME (Universal) Genre: Romantic Fantasy. A young man discovers that he has the ability to move through time, complicating his life enormously. Release Strategy: Limited (opens wide November 8). RATING: 1.4 From Richard Curtis whose Love, Actually remains one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time.
AFTERMATH (Menemsha) Genre: Drama. A pair of brothers discovers that their father had a role in the systematic elimination of Jews during World War II in the Polish village they grew up in. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 8). RATING: 1.7 Looks gripping; will be playing the Jewish Film Festival here in Orlando in mid-November.
ANGELS SING (Lionsgate) Genre: Holiday Drama. A man whose Christmas spirit was wiped out by a childhood tragedy must find a way to rekindle it for the sake of his young son. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks a little schmaltzy but any cast that includes Harry Connick Jr., Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett and Kris Kristofferson is bound to have a great soundtrack.
BIG SUR (Ketchup) Genre: Drama. Jack Kerouac tries to deal with the success of his novel On the Road by retreating to his cabin in the woods near Monterrey. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 There has been a good deal of interest in Kerouac and the Beats of late.
THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. Love at first sight, propelled by bluegrass music and caught from the breathless beginning to the bitter end. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Looks like it could have been shot in the South but is actually a Dutch film.
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus) Genre: True Life Drama. A hard-partying cowboy in the mid-80s discovers he has AIDS and has 30 days to live; rather than give in he imports tracks down alternative medicines, bringing them into America for others who can’t get access to them. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opens wide November 22). RATING: 2.1 May well turn out to be the crowning performance in Matthew McConaughey’s career and an almost certain Oscar nomination.
DIANA (eOne) Genre: Biographical Drama. The last two years of the brilliant life of the world’s most famous woman culminates in a secret love affair. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Naomi Watts is a very good choice for a role that is sure to be a difficult one to play.
ENDER’S GAME (Summit) Genre: Science Fiction. The fate of the human race rests in the hands of a brilliant young boy as Earth prepares for the final assault of a malevolent alien race. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 While I’m not a big fan of his beliefs, I do admire the Orson Scott Card book on which this is based.
FREE BIRDS (Relativity) Genre: Animated Feature. A somewhat delusional turkey recruits the turkey that received the presidential Thanksgiving pardon to travel back in time to the first Thanksgiving to make sure turkey is off the menu. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.4 The trailer was stunningly unfunny.
LAST LOVE (RLJ/Image) Genre: Drama. When an aged world-weary widower and a free-spirited dance instructor meet in Paris, they learn the quality of salvation that good friends and family can provide. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 I actually thought the trailer looked pretty good, and you really can’t go wrong with Michael Caine now can you?
LAST VEGAS (CBS) Genre: Comedy. Four childhood friends now long-in-the-tooth head to Sin City to celebrate the last bachelor in the bunch’s impending nuptials. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 When you say Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline are in the cast, I’m listening.
MAN OF TAI CHI (Radius) Genre: Martial Arts. The superior skills of a young martial artist in modern Beijing lead him to the underground fight circuit where he will need all those skills and an inextinguishable will to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut has him playing the Merovingian in someone else’s saga.
MR. NOBODY (Magnolia) Genre: Sci-Fi Drama. Standing on a train station platform, a young boy must make a decision that will affect the rest of his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Something of a Sliding Doors conceit but it looks very effective here.
THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. Cultural theorist Slavoj Zizek examines the role of movies on modern culture. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Looks funny in places but could be kind of long-winded and condescending.
SAL (Tribeca) Genre: Biographical Drama. These are the last few days of actor Sal Mineo’s life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 James Franco directed this two years ago and it’s kind of been out there languishing waiting for a distributor but at last it’s going to make it into theaters and this looks like it could be worth the wait.

NOVEMBER 6, 2013

A CASE OF YOU (IFC) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When a young man embellishes his online profile to woo a beautiful barista he’s sweet on, he finds it hard to live up to his own online alter ego. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 OK, I’ll admit that the trailer charmed the heck out of me; but it does have Peter Dinklage and Justin Long in the cast so that’s hopeful.

NOVEMBER 8, 2013

THE ARMSTRONG LIE (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. The amazing rise and precipitous fall of one of the 20th century’s most controversial sports heroes. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.4 Oscar-winning documentary director Alex Gibney gets the most candid interview with Lance Armstrong yet.
ASS BACKWARDS (Gravitas) Genre: Comedy. Two delusional women whose lives were changed when they finished dead last in a beauty pageant are invited back to their hometown for a reunion which they hope means redemption. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A reasonably funny trailer but I’m still not sold on the concept.
BEST MAN DOWN (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. A newlywed couple must cancel their honeymoon to arrange the funeral for the best man who died unexpectedly, in the process discovering that there was more to their friend than they realized. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.3 I actually found the trailer to be affecting enough so that I can’t wait to see this.
THE BOOK THIEF (20th Century Fox) Genre: Drama. A young girl, sent to live with a new family in Nazi Germany, transforms the lives of all those around her. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Based on the beloved novel, could be maudlin or could be moving – not sure which yet.
GO FOR SISTERS (Variance) Genre: Drama. Two best of friends end up as criminal and parole officer 20 years later but need to unite to save the son of one of them. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles November 15). RATING: 1.7 The latest from the great John Sayles and any of his films are worth seeking out.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS (Main Street) Genre: Drama. The latest film version of the classic Charles Dickens tale. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.1 Acclaimed British director Mike Newell leads a strong cast.
HOW I LIVE NOW (Magnolia) Genre: Sci-Fi Romantic Thriller. After an American teen goes to rural England to stay with relatives, she is forced into a ruthless fight to survive after Europe descends into chaos and war. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 Saoirse Ronan stars and Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald directs, a winning combination.
IT’S ME, IT’S ME (Pictures Dept.) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. When a young Japanese slacker takes part in a cell phone scam, the unexpected fall-out is that everyone starts to turn into him – and they start to eliminate each other by any means necessary. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Novel concept; looks ripe for an American remake of it down the line.
THE MOTEL LIFE (Self-Released) Genre: Thriller. Two brothers who essentially raised themselves must at last face reality when one of them is involved in a fatal accident. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The trailer looked extremely imaginative.
PARIS COUNTDOWN (Screen Media) Genre: Thriller. A pair of best friends who were coerced by police to testify against a psychopathic drug dealer find themselves alone and vulnerable when he is released from prison. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 It’s not a Luc Besson film but it surely could have been.
REACHING FORTHE MOON (Wolfe) Genre: Romance. American poet Elizabeth Bishop goes to Rio to visit a college friend and falls in love with her partner, initiating a tumultuous relationship that spans decades, distance, political upheaval and alcohol abuse. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles November 29). RATING: 2.5 Miranda Otto gives a terrific performance in a movie that seems to channel the spirit of Out of Africa.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. The God of Thunder must take on a threat to Asgard that could wipe out life on every other plane as well. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 And Marvel just keeps rolling on; every movie brings out the greatest anticipation not just in this critic but in the movie-going public at-large.

NOVEMBER 13, 2013

ILYA AND EMELIA KABAKOV: ENTER HERE (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. After a life of deprivation and repression, Ilya became the first living Russian artist to have an exhibition at the Hermitage. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Is it about the effect of modern art on a nation, or the effect of a nation on the modern artist?

NOVEMBER 14, 2013

THE STARVING GAMES (Ketchup) Genre: Spoof. Recent sci-fi and fantasy films are parodied. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 In general these types of films have done absolutely nothing for me and I won’t bother with them.

NOVEMBER 15, 2013

12-12-12 (Weinstein) Genre: Concert Documentary. A behind-the-scenes look at the concert to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.7 Some of the concert footage could be pretty nifty but behind-the-scenes looks tend to bore me.
THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) Genre: Comedy. The college friends of The Best Man reunite for a holiday weekend in New York which reignites old rivalries – and old romances. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 I have to say the trailer looked a bit cliché to me.
CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN (Millennium) Genre: Action. Acting on the advice of the apparition of his dead mother, the title character flies to Romania to get involved in the hallucinatory Romanian underworld, a vicious gangster and the love of his life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks to be solidly entertaining.
COLD TURKEY (Film Buff) Genre: Comedy. The arrival of an estranged daughter turns a Thanksgiving family gathering into disarray. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opening in New York City November 22). RATING: 2.5 The trailer doesn’t really tell me that this is anything but a typical quirky indie family gathering comedy.
DEAR MR. WATTERSON (Fingerprint) Genre: Documentary. The effect of the Calvin & Hobbes newspaper strip cannot be understated; this documentary attempts to explain just how important it is to modern culture. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 I was brought back to reading this strip as a young man by the trailer alone; I imagine the complete doc will be a complete nostalgia-fest.
FAUST (Leisure Time) Genre: Drama. Goethe’s classic tale of a deal with the devil is given a modern update. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 A psychedelic take on the legend by arguably the greatest living Russian filmmaker.
NEBRASKA (Paramount) Genre: Dramedy. After receiving a sweepstakes winning entry notification in the mail, a cantankerous old man gets his son to accompany him to Nebraska to claim the prize despite the younger man’s skepticism as to the validity of the letter. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The latest from director Alexander Payne stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte.
SUNLIGHT JR. (Gravitas/Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. A couple on the ragged edge of poverty faces adversity and pregnancy together. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Great cast includes Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon and Norman Reedus.

NOVEMBER 22, 2013

CONTRACTED (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. After a woman spends a night with a mysterious man, she discovers she’s contracted something more catastrophic than an STD. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 Has all the earmarks of becoming a cult favorite.
DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks) Genre: Comedy. A slacker who works as a delivery man for his father’s meatpacking business discovers that through some sort of glitch he’s become the biological father of 533 children through a sperm bank he donated to years earlier. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Based on the hit from the Florida Film Festival Starbuck, this one has the same writer/director but Vince Vaughn in the lead.
DETROIT UNLEADED (Self-Released) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Romeo and Juliet plays itself out in a convenience store attached to a gas station in Detroit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 An official selection at the 2012 Toronto Film Festival, looks to have an earthy sense of humor and a whole lot of heart.
FROZEN (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. A young – dare I say it – princess must travel the length of her kingdom, finding allies where she can, in order to save the kingdom from the icy spell her sister has cast. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opening wide November 27). RATING: 1.9 The teaser was the closest thing to a Looney Tune that Disney’s ever done.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (Lionsgate) Genre: Science Fiction. Katniss must weather political intrigue and a growing rebellion at which she is the center of before she is cast in a new Hunger Games – against former winners like herself. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.3 I liked the first film in the franchise; hopefully the second will be better still.
PHILOMENA (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. A woman who’d given up her son for adoption in Ireland goes to the United States decades later to find him, aided by a BBC Reporter. Release Strategy: Limited (opening in expanded release November 27). RATING: 1.5 Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan headline this acclaimed festival favorite.
WEEKEND OF A CHAMPION (Submarine Deluxe) Genre: Documentary. In 1971, Roman Polanski followed Grand Prix legend Jackie Stewart for a weekend prior to a big race; forty years later the two meet again to reminisce. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 I think I may have gotten my fill of Formula One racing with Rush.

NOVEMBER 27, 2013

BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Urban Family Holiday Drama. A frustrated street-wise teen from Baltimore sent to New York City to stay with estranged relatives for Christmas embarks on a journey back home to be with his mother. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Based on the acclaimed Langston Hughes play.
COUSIN JULES (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The rhythms of life for a blacksmith in rural France are recorded over a five year period. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.0 Filmed from 1968-1972 and shown to great acclaim in 1973 this lost masterpiece hasn’t been shown publically since then and it should be seen by any self-respecting movie lover.
HOMEFRONT (Open Road) Genre: Action Thriller. When a young girl gets into a row with a boy at school, the meth cooking uncle of the boy decides to pick on the dad – who turns out to be ex-DEA. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 For Da Queen, any movie with Jason Statham in it is enough reason to go and see it.
JOURNEY TO THE SOUTH PACIFIC (MacGillivray/Freeman) Genre: Nature Documentary. Cate Blanchett narrates this exploration of remote West Papua where a myriad of species of life exist both above and below the sea. Release Strategy: Wide (IMAX). RATING: 2.5 Amazingly colorful and bright, something that should make for a fantastic IMAX experience.
OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) Genre: Drama. A man is kidnapped and held for 20 years while he is accused of the murder of his wife; suddenly released, he is given just three days to discover why he was held and who really killed his wife. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.4 Based on an amazing Korean film and directed by Spike Lee; I wonder if the mind-blowing twist at the end will make it intact here.

NOVEMBER 29, 2013

BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL (Music Box) Genre: Documentary. The iconic but reclusive sex symbol at last tells her story in her own words through a series of interviews recorded starting a decade before her death. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 She’s someone who is still a tremendous influence even today, yet still a figure of mystery which might be part of her allure.
MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) Genre: Biographical Drama. The trials and tribulations of the beloved South African liberator with Idris Elba in the title role. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A definite candidate for Oscar gold.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
About Time, Aftermath, Ender’s Game, Last Vegas, The Book Thief, Thor: The Dark World, Nebraska, Delivery Man, Frozen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Homefront, Oldboy, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

2013 Fall/Holiday Preview


2013 Fall/Holiday Preview

With summer coming to an end for another year, life takes a different turn from the carefree days of our warmest months; the beginning of school isn’t far off, the weather turns from warm and sunny to cooler and our attention turns from barbecues and vacations to the preparation for the holidays. Autumn is, no doubt about it, my favorite time of year but I do have to admit that I feel a bit of a pang of loss for Hollywood’s blockbuster season.

Fear not, however because there will be plenty of movies this fall that will keep us from missing those popcorn epics we know and love. Iron Man 3 was a big success particularly overseas where it seemed to strike a chord (although a lot of Marvel fanboys have expressed some displeasure over the film but that is just, as far as I can tell, the inevitable Internet fanboy backlash that comes to every franchise). Also grabbing some big box office numbers was Man of Steel which although less successful with the critics, got big box office number and a good deal of fanboy approval, paving the way for DC to create a shared cinematic universe of their own – a sequel has already been fast tracked and it is said that preparation for a Justice League movie is well under way. Superheroes weren’t the only big winners either as Star Trek Into Darkness did big box office as did Fast and Furious 6 while Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 showed that the family film market is still thriving.

For movie buffs, the fall and holiday films are the Oscar contenders as Hollywood puts out their prestige projects; this year the frontrunners look to be The Wolf of Wall Street from legendary director Martin Scorsese, the highly-praised Inside Llewyn Davis and the big buzz project from George Clooney Monuments Men.

The popcorn epics I referred to earlier will also be in plenty of abundance, as Peter Jackson continues his Tolkien trilogy with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and last year’s blockbuster sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will both doubtlessly will inspire long lines at the box office. Not to be outdone, Ender’s Game should put a lot of butts in seats as a potential franchise film, Anchorman: The Legend Continues is the sequel to one of the great comedies of the 21st century and Tom Clancy’s smart spy Jack Ryan reboots the franchise with Trek veteran Chris Pine in the title role.

Fall is a time for jack o’lanterns and scares, and traditionally horror movies rule the October box office. This year, however, there is surprisingly little in the pipeline for the scare-inclined. At the top of the list is the remake of the Stephen King classic Carrie as well as All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and Insidious Chapter 2 to turn to. There will be plenty of laughs as well, with a new take on the James Thurber classic The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Delivery Man and Last Vegas all hoping for box office gold. This year will see our share of biographies and true stories in the multiplex, with Captain Phillips, Grace of Monaco, The Wolf of Wall Street, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Saving Mr. Banks and Rush out in theaters.

There will be more than a few remakes as The Delivery Man (a remake of this past year’s Starbuck), Oldboy from director Spike Lee putting his spin on the Korean cult classic, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet returning to the big screen along with the aforementioned Carrie and Walter Mitty. There will be plenty of family fare with Frozen, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and Free Birds waiting in the wings. The glut of science fiction films carries over from the summer as Thor: The Dark World, Gravity, Ender’s Game, Riddick, Homefront and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire will transport us to new worlds. And, as always, plenty of drama with August: Osage County, The Counselor, Dallas Buyers Club and Prisoners.

There’s nothing like a clear winter night sky for star-gazing and 2013 will have plenty of opportunity for that. You’ll be able to see Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street), Brad Pitt (12 Years a Slave), Ben Stiller (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), George Clooney (Monuments Men), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Will Ferrell (Anchorman: The Legend Continues), Vin Diesel (Riddick), Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Robert De Niro (The Family), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Matthew McConaughey (The Dallas Buyers Club), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Escape Plan), Michael Fassbender (The Counselor), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Harrison Ford (Ender’s Game), Vince Vaughn (Delivery Man), Owen Wilson (Free Birds), Jennifer Hudson (Black Nativity), Anthony Hopkins (Thor: The Dark World), Samuel L. Jackson (Oldboy), Vince Vaughn (The Delivery Man), Nicole Kidman (Grace of Monaco), Ben Affleck (Runner Runner), Michael Douglas (Last Vegas), Chris Hemsworth (Rush), Jason Statham (Homefront) and Hugh Jackman (Prisoners). There will also be plenty of stars behind the camera with Peter Jackson, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, David O. Russell, Ron Howard, Alexander Payne and the Coen Brothers all sitting in the director’s chair this fall.

You can start planning your trips to the multiplex now with this preview of what lies ahead. Further details can be found in our weekly Previews and monthly Four-Warned features, and of course many of the movies that are in this preview today will be one of our daily reviews down the road. There are plenty of great movies to choose from this fall so enough of this blather and let’s get started telling you about them.

SEPTEMBER

As fall is a time for the earth to rest after the summer growing season, so too is September a brief respite between the big summer blockbusters and the Holiday box office monsters. Generally the movies here are not of the quality we’ll see later in the season although once in awhile some pretty good films manage to make their way through. Hopefully one of them will be the third installment in Vin Diesel’s epic science fiction saga, as well as Ron Howard’s tale of a legendary Formula One racing rivalry, Canadian director Denis Villaneuve’s taut kidnapping thriller and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directing debut that was a big hit at Sundance.

Riddick

DEANS LIST

RIDDICK
RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Bokeem Woodbine, Dave Bautista, Matt Nable, Conrad Pla, Raoul Trujillo, Nolan Funk, Keri Hilson
STORY: After falling from his place as Ruler of the Necromancers, Riddick finds himself stranded on a planet more desolate and deadly than he ever has been before. With bounty hunters after his head and the ever-deadly Lord Vaako demanding answers, Riddick will have his hands full getting off this planet alive.
PROSPECTS: More of a return to Pitch Black which made Diesel a star. Doesn’t hurt that he’s riding high after enormous numbers for Fast and Furious 6.
OBSTACLES: The ponderous and pretentious Chronicles of Riddick may leave some wary of the franchise.
FACTOID: Urban is the only returning character other than Riddick from the second film.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2

RELEASE DATE: September 27, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Benjamin Bratt, Terry Crews, Will Forte
STORY: Flint’s machine is still going and now mutating giant food into hybrids of food and animals. Flint and his crew must somehow make their way back to the island and find the machine and turn it off once and for all.
PROSPECTS: Really the only family film coming out during the void between the end of Summer and October so could have a good time as the only game in town.
OBSTACLES: While the first film did decent numbers, it wasn’t an overwhelming hit.
FACTOID: Phil Lord and Chris Miller, directors of the first movie, will be taking an executive producers role without directing.

RUSH
RELEASE DATE: September 20, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara, Christian McKay, Stephen Mangan, Natalie Dormer
STORY: Formula One racers James Hunt and Niki Lauda develop a fierce rivalry on the track and a fierce respect off of it.
PROSPECTS: Hemsworth is hot and director Ron Howard’s name ought to pull in at least a few folks into the multiplex.
OBSTACLES: This will probably do much better overseas than in the United States where NASCAR is king and Formula One is more or less a footnote.
FACTOID: Howard decided against using archival footage of Lauda’s Nürburgring crash but re-created it where it actually happened.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

DON JON
RELEASE DATE: September 27, 2013
STUDIO: Relativity
STARRING: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Glenne Headly, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luc, Italia Ricci
STORY: A handsome ladies man who has no trouble scoring with the ladies finds himself with a porn addiction. When he falls (and is fallen for by) a pretty young woman with old-fashioned values and an unrealistic expectation for romance, the two try and find a way to make things work out.
PROSPECTS: One of the most acclaimed films to come out of Sundance earlier this year. Gordon-Levitt seems poised to move on up to the next level.
OBSTACLES: Not a sure thing that the public sees him as a leading man.
FACTOID: This is Gordon-Levitt’s directing debut.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013

POPULAIRE (Weinstein) is opening in limited release and is set in 1958 France. Herein a vivacious young woman, seeing a wife of dull housewifery ahead of her, interviews for a secretarial position in another town and her amazing typing speed gives her new boss the idea of entering her in a speed typing competition. WINNIE MANDELA (Image) chronicles the life of the former first lady of South Africa and a freedom fighter in her own right in this limited release.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2013

In THE FAMILY (Relativity) a mob informant in witness protection whose wife and kids are as criminally inclined (if not more so) than he is gets moved to a small French village where they fit in like a Goth at a Pat Boone concert. Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones star. INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 (FilmDistrict) returns Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne whose supernatural issues from the surprise 2010 hit have not been put behind them after all.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2013

BATTLE OF THE YEAR 3D (Screen Gems) is one of those hip hop dance movies that is pretty much interchangeable with all the others. PRISONERS (Warner Brothers) is the first major studio film from acclaimed French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve and stars Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrance Howard and Viola Davis as the parents of two missing daughters whose desperation to find them drives them to unspeakable acts. Jake Gyllenhaal also stars as a sympathetic detective. THE WIZARD OF OZ IMAX 3D (MGM) is re-released on the 75th anniversary of its original release in the IMAX forward. Lions and Tigers and Bears…in 3D! Oh My!

SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

BAGGAGE CLAIM (Fox Searchlight) stars Paula Patton as a flight attendant determined to get engaged before her younger sister’s wedding and willing to use her airline connections to find her Mr. Right – in just 30 days. METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER (Picturehouse) send Dane DeHaan as a roadie for the legendary Metal heroes on a quest while his employers shred in concert. While this opens in limited release this week, it will get a wider release starting October 4 for the resurrected Picturehouse distribution company. THERESE (LD Entertainment) is a new version of the Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin which scandalized Paris in the 19th century. It opens in limited release..

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 four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA (Columbia) Budget: $85 Million. Domestic Gross: $148.3M Total: $346.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (Screen Gems) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $42.3M Total: $240.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
LOOPER (TriStar) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $66.5M Total: $176.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (Summit) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $3.7M Total: $16.9M Verdict: Flop.
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Columbia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $35.8M Total: $49.0M Verdict: Probably Broke Even.
END OF WATCH (Open Road) Budget: $7M. Domestic Gross: $41.0M Total: $48.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
DREDD (Lionsgate) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $13.4M Total: $35.6M Verdict: Flop.
HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $31.6M Total: $39.5M Verdict: Hit.
THE WORDS (CBS) Budget: $6M. Domestic Gross: $11.5M Total: $13.2 Verdict: Made Money.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $33.4 Verdict: Made Money.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $15.0M Total: $37.9 Verdict: Made Money.

OCTOBER

The leaves are turning now and fall is beginning in earnest. While this year’s installment of the horror film franchise of the hour has been put off until next year that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of things to bring those who like their spines chilled and their senses shaken with a remake of a Stephen King classic and the latest from director Alphonso Cuaron set in outer space. There is also Tom Hanks in a true life thriller, a new installment in a series that began on reality TV and a sequel to a big animated hit.

Captain Phillips

DEANS LIST

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
RELEASE DATE: October 11, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener, Max Martini, Chris Mulkey, Yul Vazquez, Michael Chernus, Corey Johnson, Angus MacInnes, David Warshofsky
STORY: When the freighter Maersk Alabama is seized by armed pirates, the Captain must take heroic measures to protect his ship and crew, leading to a daring rescue by U.S. Navy Seals that would capture the world’s imagination.
PROSPECTS: Director Paul Greengrass proved his mettle when it came to current event films with United 11. With Hanks leading the way and little competition at the box office, this could do surprising business.
OBSTACLES: Hanks hasn’t had a big hit or Oscar buzz for a few years now, and with a competing film coming out in December his draw might not be what it used to be. Current event films tend to do poorly at the box office unless they’re sports-related.
FACTOID: The MV Maersk Alabama was the first American-flagged cargo ship to be seized by pirates in over 200 years.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

GRAVITY
RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Eric Michels, Basher Savage
STORY: Two astronauts on a routine spacewalk are left stranded when their shuttle is destroyed. Completely cut off from NASA and spinning out into deep space, their oxygen will rapidly deplete unless they can undertake a radical plan to save themselves.
PROSPECTS: Director Alfonso Cuaron is Oscar-nominated and well respected in the genre community. Bullock and Clooney are two of Hollywood’s most appealing stars and the trailer looks absolutely spectacular.
OBSTACLES: With the shuttle program completed and the next generation program years away, interest in NASA may be unusually low.
FACTOID: This is producer David Heyman’s first project since the Harry Potter series concluded. Cuaron directed the third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, of the franchise.

ESCAPE PLAN
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2013
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan
STORY: An expert on prison security agrees to test the integrity of a brand new high-tech supermax facility. Betrayed and falsely imprisoned, he must team up with an inmate to escape the most escape-proof facility ever built.
PROSPECTS: Stallone and Schwarzenegger co-starring as leads will set action fans to salivating.
OBSTACLES: They are also getting a bit long in the tooth. Prison break films haven’t exactly set the box office on fire as of late.
FACTOID: Filming was interrupted while Stallone grieved for his eldest son Sage who passed away during shooting.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

THE FIFTH ESTATE
RELEASE DATE: October 18, 2013
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING: Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, David Thewlis, Alicia Vikander, Peter Capaldi, Carice van Houten, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney
STORY: Julian Assange and partner Daniel Domscheit-Berg co-found WikiLeaks, a platform for whistleblowers to anonymously post covert data, shedding light on government secrets and corporate crimes. When they gain access to the largest leak of classified U.S. military information in history, they are faced with the ethical question of whether the price of posting information that could cost lives is worth the exposure.
PROSPECTS: Cumberbatch is one of the hottest faces of this summer after his stellar work as the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness. The cast of international stars supporting him is impressive.
OBSTACLES: Assange isn’t really seen as a hero in America.
FACTOID: James McAvoy was originally cast as Domscheit-Berg but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with his stage play Macbeth. Bruhl was cast in his place.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

OCTOBER 4, 2013

RUNNER RUNNER (20th Century Fox) stars Justin Timberlake as a grad student who gets burned in an online poker game. Believing he got ripped off, he goes to set things right – and winds up even deeper in a world more corrupt than he could have imagined. Ben Affleck also stars.. A TOUCH OF SIN (Kino Lorber) examines the effects the economic boom in China has had on four individual lives from various places and economic stations in that country. This is likely opening in limited release and yes, this is based on actual incidents. A.C.O.D. (The Film Arcade) stands for Adult Children of Divorce and stars Adam Scott, trying to get his bickering divorced parents to co-exist for one night at his little brother’s wedding, with unexpected results. This played Sundance earlier this year as part of the Sundance Across America program and was reviewed here.

OCTOBER 11, 2013

In MACHETE KILLS (Open Road) the ex-Federale is recruited by the President himself to stop a billionaire arms dealer and a revolutionary from hatching a mad plot to start World War III. Danny Trejo returns to the role. ROMEO & JULIET (Relativity) is a reimagining of the classic Shakespeare tragedy re-set in the modern era. Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld and Douglas Booth play the star-crossed couple. ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (Radius) has taken a long and circuitous route but is finally getting a theatrical release after years of sitting on the shelf and passing from distributor to distributor. At a party on a secluded ranch a number of the revelers begin to disappear one by one and the guest of honor, a “good girl” who has become the object of obsession for a number of high school boys, might be involved. As you might guess, this is opening in limited release.

OCTOBER 18, 2013

CARRIE (Screen Gems) has cast Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role of the classic Steven King horror film. A young teenager, sheltered by an overbearing and religious nutjob of a mother, begins to develop psychic powers even as she becomes the object of scorn and torture at her school. You just know it isn’t going to end well for anyone. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (Fox Searchlight) is based on a true story as a free black man in pre-Civil War New York is abducted and sold as a slave. The incredible cast includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Chiwetel Ejiofor and is directed by Steve McQueen, one of the best young filmmakers in the world. Sadly, it’s opening in limited release but hopefully it will make it to Orlando. HAUNTER (IFC Midnight) is also opening in limited release and is a haunted house thriller in which Abigail Breslin must unravel a mystery dating back well before she was born if she is to save her family.

OCTOBER 25, 2013

THE COUNSELOR (20th Century Fox) stars Michael Fassbender as a young lawyer who gets involved in an illegal business deal which turns his life sideways quickly. Ridley Scott directs this adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy screenplay. JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA (Paramount) brings back the entire gang for a road trip in which Johnny Knoxville’s character Irving Zisman introduces his naive grandson to a wide variety of real people. Opening in limited release, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (Sundance Selects) was one of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, receiving an NC-17 rating for its eroticism as it depicts a 15-year-old French schoolgirl discovering love and sex with a free-spirited young woman.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR
CLOUD ATLAS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $102M. Domestic Gross: $27.1M Total: $130.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
ARGO (Warner Brothers) Budget: $44.5M. Domestic Gross: $136.98M Total: $232.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 (Paramount) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $53.9M Total: $140.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE PAPERBOY (Millennium) Budget: $2.5M. Domestic Gross: $693,286 Total: $1.4M Verdict: Flop.
TAKEN 2 (20th Century Fox) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $139.9M Total: $376.1 Verdict: Blockbuster.
FRANKENWEENIE (Disney) Budget: $39M. Domestic Gross: $35.3M Total: $67.1 Verdict: Lost Money.
ALEX CROSS (Summit) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $25.9M Total: $30.4M Verdict: Flop.
HERE COMES THE BOOM (Columbia) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $45.3M Total: $73.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
SINISTER (Summit) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $48.1M Total: $77.7M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (CBS) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $15.0M Total: $19.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
PITCH PERFECT (Universal) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $65.0M Total: $113.0M Verdict: Major Big Hit.

NOVEMBER

November is when things really start to get interesting. Fall’s biggest blockbusters normally start making appearances now as well as some Oscar front-runners. Marvel is bringing their box office magic this month, and Martin Scorsese prepares another Oscar contender. Disney has a brand new animated feature and the newest franchise fluttering the hearts of pre-teen girls delivers its second installment.

Enders Game

DEANS LIST

ENDER’S GAME
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2013
STUDIO: Summit Entertainment
STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Moises Arias, Brandon Soo Hoo
STORY: After barely surviving an alien attack, the forces of Earth prepare for the next one by preparing young people at Battle School, training them in strategy and tactics. One student will rise above and become mankind’s only hope to win the coming impossible battle.
PROSPECTS: The Ender novels are extremely popular and the good young cast (along with some outstanding adult cast members) will certainly make a case for this to become a new franchise for Summit if it does well.
OBSTACLES: Author Orson Scott Card’s political views, particularly towards gay marriage and President Obama, have offended some who may boycott the film because of it.
FACTOID: The Battle Room sequences used a special wheel harness that allowed the actors a much more free range of motion than traditional harnesses.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THOR: THE DARK WORLD
RELEASE DATE: November 8 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson
STORY: A shadowy foe that predates the Universe and the vengeful Malekith seek to topple Asgard and with it the Nine Realms. Not even the might of Odin can withstand them; only Thor, reunited with Jane Foster, might have a chance of victory but it will cost him everything.
PROSPECTS: Marvel is showing no signs of slowing down. This is said to be setting the stage for the Outer Space venue that will be the setting for Avengers: The Age of Ultron in 2015.
OBSTACLES: Sooner or later fans may well tire of the Marvel cinematic universe like they did of the Star Trek universe. Overexposure with two movie and a TV series this year are a very real concern.
FACTOID: Josh Dallas, who played Fandral in Thor, was unable to reprise his role here because of his commitment to his TV show Once Upon a Time. He was replaced by Zachary Levi who was originally the first choice for the role but was unable to take it – because of his commitment to his TV show Chuck.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci
STORY: Katniss and Peeta embark on a tour of Panem as a requirement of their victory in the Hunger Games. However her inspiring victory is brewing up a rebellion, one which the ruthless President will crush by any means necessary – including killing Katniss and everyone she holds dear.
PROSPECTS: This really resonated with the pre-teen and teen girls, many of whom were Twihards as well – but also appealed to their boyfriends and brothers. This might well be the big franchise Lionsgate has been looking for.
OBSTACLES: The Hunger Games was released early in the year with little competition; that won’t be the case here.
FACTOID: Gary Ross, who directed the first movie, declined to return for the second although he had been invited to.

FROZEN
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2013
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, Chris Williams
STORY: An optimistic young woman whose sister is the Snow Queen, undertakes a perilous journey with eccentric friends to put an end to the perpetual winter the kingdom has been stuck in.
PROSPECTS: Disney has deliberately kept this movie largely under wraps; the only footage we’ve seen yet is a Looney Tunes-esque clip that has served as a trailer. If the movie holds to that, it might be one of the best movies they’ve turned out in years.
OBSTACLES: The plot is a little Narnia-esque with a bit of Wicked mixed in for good measure. There will be some family film competition this month as well.
FACTOID: Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Snow Queen.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
RELEASE DATE: November 15, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin
STORY: The rise and fall of a cutthroat Wall Street tycoon (based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort) whose party hard lifestyle symbolized the excesses and outrages of Wall Street.
PROSPECTS: Every Martin Scorsese movie has at least something worthwhile to see; chances are this will be yet another Oscar contender for the director.
OBSTACLES: Movies set in the financial sector have fallen into disfavor as of late.
FACTOID: This is the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

OLDBOY
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2013
STUDIO: FilmDistrict
STARRING: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L. Jackson, James Ransone, Michael Imperioli, Rami Malek, Max Casella, Hannah Ware
STORY: A man is inexplicably kidnapped and held captive for 20 years, then just as inexplicably released. He is given three days to discover who kidnapped him and why, only to discover that he is still trapped – by his past.
PROSPECTS: Based on one of the best movies of the past five years, director Spike Lee might just be the perfect fit to sit behind the camera for this one.
OBSTACLES: The original Korean movie was extremely violent and sexual, with some of the plot elements perhaps too rough for mainstream audiences.
FACTOID: Among those who turned down roles were Daniel Craig, Will Smith, Rooney Mara, Clive Owen, Colin Firth, Christian Bale and Mia Wasikowska.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

NOVEMBER 1, 2013

FREE BIRDS (Relativity) is an animated feature in which the turkey pardoned by the President is sent on a mission back in time to the first Thanksgiving to take turkey off the menu. Who’s got the cranberry sauce?. In LAST VEGAS (CBS), four old friends (and I do mean old) head off to Sin City for one last fling to celebrate the impending marriage of one of their number. Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas and Morgan Freeman star. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (Focus) opens in limited release and stars Matthew McConaughey as a hard-living Texas cowboy diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and given 30 days to live. Finding no solutions in traditional medicine, he seeks out alternative medicines both legal and otherwise from around the world and distributes them to himself and others in the same pickle. Based on a true story.

NOVEMBER 8, 2013

ABOUT TIME (Universal) is the latest from British rom-com king Richard Curtis (Love, Actually). This one’s about a young man who discovers he can travel in time and put right all of his romantic mistakes, but changing the future can be a dangerous thing..

NOVEMBER 15, 2013

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (Universal) reunites the cast of 1999 urban comedy for a magical Holiday weekend in New York in which secrets will be revealed and their lives changed forever. THE BOOK THIEF (20th Century Fox), based on a best-selling book, is the story of a brave young girl who goes to live with a new family in Nazi Germany and discovers courage – as well as instills it in others – through the power of literature. THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN (Millennium) opens in limited release and stars Shia LaBeouf in the title role as a young man who falls in love with the girlfriend of an insanely violent (and jealous) crime boss which we really don’t recommend you do either.

NOVEMBER 22, 2013

DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks) stars Vince Vaughn as a genial slacker who discovers that through an error at a fertility clinic his donated sperm has fathered over 500 children. NEBRASKA (Paramount) comes from acclaimed director Alexander Payne and stars Bruce Dern as a cantankerous old man who believes he’s won a million dollar sweepstakes and takes a road trip wit his son to collect the prize.

NOVEMBER 27, 2013

BLACK NATIVITY (Fox Searchlight) is an adaptation of a Langston Hughes play about a streetwise Baltimore teen who is forced to spend the Christmas holidays in New York with his strict and devout relatives. When he rebels against their rules, he determines to make the trip back home to his mom, no matter what the odds. HOMEFONT (Open Road) stars Jason Statham as an ex-DEA agent who retires to a small town for the sake of his ten year old daughter. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong town. Sylvester Stallone wrote this. GRACE OF MONACO (Weinstein) chronicles the life of the late actress-turned-royalty with Nicole Kidman in the title role. Opens in limited release.

NOVEMBER 29, 2013

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (Weinstein) stars Idris Elba in this biography of the great South African leader, activist and liberator.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2 (Summit) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $292.3Total: $829.7M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SKYFALL (MGM/Columbia) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $304.4M Total: $1.109B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
FLIGHT (Paramount) Budget: $31M. Domestic Gross: $93.7M Total: $161.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
JACK AND DIANE (Relativity) N/A. Domestic Gross: $1,142 Total: $1,142. Verdict: Flop.
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $182.2M Total: $275.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) Budget: $120M. Domestic Gross: $125.06M Total: $609.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $103.4M. Total: $303.7M Verdict: Broke Even.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Weinstein) Budget: $21M. Domestic Gross: $132.1M Total: $236.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) Budget: $165M Domestic Gross: $189.4M Total: $471.2M Verdict: Made Money.
RED DAWN (FilmDistrict) Budget: $65M Domestic Gross: $44.8M Total: $44.8M Verdict: Flop.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Universal) Budget: $15M Domestic Gross: $15.6M Total: $19.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
A LATE QUARTET (EOne) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $1.6M Total: $1.6M Verdict: May have made money.

DECEMBER

The twelfth month is a frenzy of foul weather, Christmas shopping, Oscar wannabes and blockbuster hopefuls as the year comes to an end. This year, we’ll be seeing the middle installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, a long-awaited sequel to a very funny film, a reboot of a popular realistic espionage series, and George Clooney’s latest directorial effort set during the Second World War.

Anchorman The Legend Continues

DEANS LIST

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
RELEASE DATE: December 20, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Harrison Ford, Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Greg Kinnear
STORY: Legendary anchorman Ron Burgundy and his news team are enticed out of retirement at the prospect of joining the country’s very first 24-hour news channel but it doesn’t turn out quite the way they expected
PROSPECTS: Holy mother of God, Burgundy’s back! Many consider this one of the funniest movies ever made and certainly it is still quoted regularly by fanboys to this day. Has only grown in stature since the original aired a decade ago.
OBSTACLES: It’s been more than a decade and one wonders if it still has the cred it used to have.
FACTOID: Ferrell, in character, announced the movie on the Conan O’Brien show.

GRADUATED WITH HONORS

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Hugo Weaving, Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans, Lee Pace
STORY: The epic quest to reclaim the Dwarven Kingdom of Erebor continues as the party of 13 crosses the desolation of Smaug and comes face-to-face with the mighty dragon himself.
PROSPECTS: The huge Tolkein fanbase and those who have loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy will continue to show up in huge numbers.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey didn’t generate the kind of excitement that the previous trilogy did.
FACTOID: Due to the dearth of female characters in the source novel, screenwriter Philippa Boyens created the character of Tauriel to inject some redheaded feminine energy into the film.

JACK RYAN
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Colm Feore, David Paymer, Gemma Chan, Nonso Anozie
STORY: A young CIA analyst races against time to foil a plot that would destabilize the economy of the nation.
PROSPECTS: Ryan has done big box office in four films with three different actors playing him and there’s no reason to believe that won’t continue.
OBSTACLES: Given recent events, there’s not a lot of love for the covert departments of the government and that might translate to smaller audiences.
FACTOID: This is the first Jack Ryan movie to contain an original plot not from one of the novels.

SAVING MR. BANKS
RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2013 (limited; opens in wide release December 20)
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Kathy Baker, B.J. Novak
STORY: The classic family film Mary Poppins almost didn’t get made; author P.L. Travers was extremely reluctant to sign the rights to a Hollywood studio that she felt would maul the spirit of her book. This is how Walt Disney convinced her otherwise.
PROSPECTS: Truly a fascinating story, the moving tale might well be an Oscar contender. Certainly those who love Poppins will be eager to see it.
OBSTACLES: May fall in heavy competition both for the box office and for Oscar attention.
FACTOID: The first Disney film to have Walt Disney as a main character.

ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
RELEASE DATE: December 6, 2013 (limited; opens in expanded release December 20)
STUDIO: CBS
STARRING: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F. Murray Abraham, Justin Timberlake, Ethan Phillips, Max Casella
STORY: An aspiring folk singer, preternaturally attached to his cat, tries to survive in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s.
PROSPECTS: Hey, it’s a Coen Brothers film! They carry their own little niche and this could well be the first film from that struggling studio to be a serious Oscar contender.
OBSTACLES: Hey, it’s a Coen Brothers film! They never make a ton of money at the box office.
FACTOID: Loosely based on the life of the late Dave van Ronk.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE

DECEMBER 6, 2013

In OUT OF THE FURNACE (Relativity), a blue collar worker caring for his dying father watches helplessly as his brother, just home from Iraq, gets involved in a ruthless crime ring. When his brother vanishes and the police seem ill-disposed to find him, he takes matters into his own hands. Christian Bale stars.

DECEMBER 13, 2013

TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA CHRISTMAS (Lionsgate) is America’s most irascible grandmother’s first holiday movie. Ho ho ho, y’all.

DECEMBER 18, 2013

THE MONUMENTS MEN (Columbia) is directed by and stars George Clooney, leading an all-star cast (including Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett) depicting the true story of a small group of experts during the War who attempted to prevent the Nazis (and the Allies) from destroying priceless art and architecture.

DECEMBER 20, 2013

WALKING WITH DINOSAURS: THE MOVIE (20th Century Fox) brings the world of the dinosaurs to life through computer animation and live photography. Should be a big hit with the kids. FOXCATCHER (Sony Classics) is the true story of John DuPont, the eccentric heir to a chemical fortune whose obsession with Olympic wresting would lead to murder. Opens in limited release.

DECEMBER 25, 2013

47 RONIN (Universal) stars Keanu Reeves as a masterless samurai who is betrayed along with 46 others by a ruthless warlord. Driven from their homes and hunted down, they must unite to make a stand against a powerful and merciless foe. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein) boasts an all-star cast and is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play. In it, a group of strong-willed sisters whose lives have diverged in different directions return to the home they grew up in and the dysfunctional woman who raised them. GRUDGE MATCH (Warner Brothers) features Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro as two retired boxers who decide to get back into the ring and settle their rivalry – 50 year after they got out of it. THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th Century Fox), based on the beloved James Thurber short story which was in turn made into a beloved film starring Danny Kaye. How beloved this will be remains to be seen but it will be Ben Stiller playing the title role of the perpetual dreamer Walter Mitty..

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (New Line) Budget: $200M. Domestic Gross: $303.0M Total: $1.017B Verdict: Blockbuster.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (Columbia) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $95.7M Total: $108.7M Verdict: Made Money.
THIS IS 40 (Universal) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $67.5M Total: $88.1M Verdict: Made Money.
LES MISERABLES (Universal) Budget: $61M. Domestic Gross: $148.8M Total: $441.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Weinstein) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $162.8M Total: $425.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
JACK REACHER (Paramount) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $80.1M Total: $216.6M Verdict: Hit.
THE GUILT TRIP (Paramount) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $37.1M Total: $41.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
AMOUR (Sony Classics) Budget: $8.9M. Domestic Gross: $6.7M Total: $19.8 Verdict: Made Money.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $77.3M Total: $119.8M Verdict: Big Hit.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS (FilmDistrict) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $13.1M Total: $13.1M Verdict: Flop.
THE IMPOSSIBLE (Summit) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $19.0M Total: $172.4M Verdict: International Hit.
PROMISED LAND (Focus) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $7.6M Total: $8.1M Verdict: Flop.

Thus ends this year’s Fall and Holiday preview. Maybe a few of these whetted your appetite for popcorn and darkness; maybe more than a few. Theater owners can only hope. Remember; release dates are always subject to change, particularly the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before heading out to the theater. Readers in New York and Los Angeles, please note that there are several major December releases which will be opening wide in January following their Oscar qualifying run in your cities; those will be previewed in our 2014 preview issue. Speaking of the 2014 preview, our 2013 preview work is done and the annual look ahead at next year is due out at the end of December. There are some interesting projects on the horizon, including no less than six movies from Marvel including their first feature-length animated feature, a return of the Transformers, Sin City, 300, the Hobbit, the Expendables and the Hunger Games and reboots of Frankenstein, Dracula and Godzilla. However, 2014 may well be only a prelude to a blockbuster 2015 which promises the second Avengers film, the first film in the brand new Star Wars trilogy, sequels to Independence Day, The Terminator and Pirates of the Caribbean as well as a new James Bond film and a Superman/Batman team-up. Reason enough to be optimistic about coming attractions. See you at the multiplex!

2013 Preview


2013 banner - final

Theater owners were buoyed by a year that set a new box office record, reversing the decline begun in 2010. However, much of the revenue is coming from upcharges for IMAX and 3D tickets; the actual number of tickets sold is still down. That said there were a fair share of box office bonanzas to be had and while on-demand streaming through services like Amazon, iTunes, Netflix, Blockbuster and SnagFilms seems to be the wave of the future, there are still plenty of reasons to go and see movies in a theater.

Picking up a new trend, several chains are following the lead of Alamo Drafthouse and our own Enzian by offering table service for food in the theater, giving moviegoers a one-stop shopping option for nights out. Expect to see more options in that direction as theater owners try to attract more bodies out of their homes and into the multiplex. However some major studios, led by Weinstein, are hedging their bets and joining the major indies (such as IFC and Magnolia who have been doing this for years) by releasing their movies in limited theatrical release and on Video On-Demand simultaneously.

The box office charge was led by The Avengers which rocketed to the number three box office champion of all time, behind only two James Cameron films. Not far behind was The Dark Knight Rises which closed out Christopher Nolan’s and in all likelihood Christian Bale’s involvement with the franchise and rose to number seven on the domestic box office list. Also in the top 20 was The Hunger Games which claimed the number 13 spot and established a brand new franchise to capture the hearts and minds of pre-pubescent girls everywhere, replacing the last of the Twilight series that also came out in 2012.

As with every year, we here at Cinema365 have high hopes for what’s in store for 2013. We will be out there on the front lines, checking out  the major new releases as well as as many independent films as we can see in the Orlando area as we can get to. To that end we will continue to cover the Florida Film Festival as best we can, with reviews of as many films as we can get to see without our brains exploding. DVD releases will continue to play an important part of our coverage as we strive to maintain our stated goal of one review every day, although being human we do falter some days.

In the meantime, we have a preview to get to so just a few words of business before we get started; as always, release dates are extremely subject to change. Plenty of the movies that show up in the preview will wind up coming out on a date other than the one listed here and maybe some may not be released at all. Others may change their titles and come out as something else entirely. The farther out the movie is scheduled for, the more likelihood for change there is. The information we present here is as accurate as we can make it when it was written but don’t be surprised if within a few days of publication there will already be changes. For more accurate release dates, consult our weekly previews which contain the movies being released nationwide, as well as those that are coming out in limited release here in Orlando. Also keep an eye out for Four-Warned, our monthly series that details all the movies getting theatrical releases somewhere in the country – at least, those that we are aware of. By all means, consult your local theater listings to make sure the movie you’re interested in seeing is playing in your area before heading out to the multiplex. If you’re looking for further information about a movie that grabs your fancy, you can find it at either iMDB or ComingSoon.net; the links to both of those sites are available on the front page of Cinema365.

So what are you waiting for? There’s a whole year of previews for you to get through and you won’t do it by reading all this fluff. Enjoy your glimpse into 2013!

JANUARY

Usually the first month of any new year is mostly the province of the Holiday movies, remaining strong in the theaters, plus the debuts of a one or two Oscar hopefuls that opened in New York and Los Angeles before the end of the year to qualify for an Academy Award nomination. Generally the rest are those films exiled to the gulag that is January, movies that have shifted release dates and that the studios have little confidence in. Once in awhile, there are movies that come out that are critically acclaimed or box office winners or both. This year, we can look forward to the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to a leading role in an action movie and a gangster movie that was set to be a summer fixture that was delayed due to a tragedy.

The Gangster Squad

DON’T MISS

GANGSTER SQUAD

RELEASE DATE: January 11, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi
STORY: Loosely based on actual events, Los Angeles in the ’30s is in the complete control of mobster Mickey Cohen. Realizing conventional methods won’t work in dealing with the crime boss, a small cadre of cops puts aside the rule books and takes the law into their own hands in an all-out war against Cohen.
PROSPECTS: The movie gained notoriety when its release date was pushed out from last summer and its trailer pulled from theaters after the Aurora, Colorado theater massacre (a scene from the trailer showed mobsters opening fire with Tommy guns in a crowded movie theater). With an all-star cast and a certain amount of infamy the movie will have theater goers curious.
OBSTACLES: Gangster movies haven’t exactly been burning up the box office receipts over the past 25 years.
FACTOID: Amy Adams and Kate Winslet were considered for a role that eventually went to newcomer Mireille Enos.

SHOULD SEE

THE LAST STAND

RELEASE DATE: January 18, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Jaime Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford, Genesis Rodriguez, Harry Dean Stanton, Johnny Knoxville
STORY: The sheriff of a small border town faces catastrophe when a drug lord from the Mexican cartel is broken out from an American prison and is headed back to Mexico with the firepower of a small army – and this one town in his way.
PROSPECTS: This is the Governator’s first lead role since entering the political arena. Having retired from office, this is the first of several films coming out in the next year that Schwarzenegger will headline and there will be a curiosity factor that should make for a pretty decent draw.
OBSTACLES: It’s a mystery whether Schwarzenegger has the same appeal that he did before his political career. The trailer doesn’t do him any favors as the movie looks little better than a direct-to-home video action thriller although how good it is remains to be seen.
FACTOID: Most of the action was filmed in and around New Mexico.

HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS

RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann, Zoe Bell, Robin Atkin Downs
STORY: Fifteen years after the incident in the Gingerbread House, the siblings Hansel and Gretel have become deadly hunters of witches and warlocks. They are contracted to take down a powerful witch who intends to sacrifice many children during a blood moon ritual two days hence; they not only have to contend with her coven but with a brutal sheriff who is conducting a witch hunt of his own.
PROSPECTS: Renner is superhot after stints in the Bourne and Avengers franchises. Looks like there are some jaw-dropping eye candy in this one as well.
OBSTACLES: I am reminded inescapably of Van Helsing, a similarly-themed movie that looked marvelous but left critics and audiences flat, failing to become the expected franchise film that Universal hoped it to be and as Paramount clearly hopes this will be.
FACTOID: In interviews, Janssen stated she did the film for financial reasons alone; troubles with Bringing Up Bobby, a film she directed and produced, forced her to raise cash in order to pay her mortgage off and keep her own film above water.

MIGHT SURPRISE

JOHN DIES AT THE END

RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2013
STUDIO: Magnolia
STARRING: Paul Giamatti, Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Angus Scrimm, Fabianne Therese, Jimmy Wong, Allison Weissman
STORY: Users who take a designer drug that gives them an out-of-body experience don’t come back as human and soon it becomes apparent that an alien invasion is underway. Mankind’s only hope comes down to a couple of college dropout slackers. In other words, we’re screwed.
PROSPECTS: A festival favorite (including an appearance at the Florida Film Festival last year), this is the latest from legendary horror auteur Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep) who has a rabid underground following.
OBSTACLES: More likely destined for cult status, the parasitical alien invasion is getting a bigger budget big studio treatment later in the year with The Host.
FACTOID: Based on a comic horror novel by David Wong which originally was serialized on the Internet back in 2001.

ALSO

January 4, 2013

ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE (Image) puts a trio of superheroes in a position where their super powers are no longer working. An evil mastermind puts them through challenges that are virtually impossible to overcome; in order to survive they’ll have to work together – as humans – or die powerless. You will find this in limited release. TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (Lionsgate) is the second reboot of the iconic Tobe Hooper horror classic. While a whole new generation of nubile young teen sorts queue up to get eviscerated, veterans from original Gunnar Hansen, Bill Moseley and Marilyn Burns all put in an appearance in this new one. And you can watch the chainsaw coming through the screen in senses-shattering 3D! Wheee!

January 11, 2013

A HAUNTED HOUSE (Open Road) is a spoof of the Paranormal Activity films courtesy of Marlon Wayans and his wacky crew. QUARTET (Weinstein) is Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut and stars Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connelly and Michael Gambon as residents of a retirement home for British opera singers whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a diva on the eve of a crucial fund raising concert in which she refuses to sing. This is opening in limited release.

January 18, 2013

BROKEN CITY (20th Century Fox) stars Mark Wahlberg as an honest cop trapped and framed by the corrupt mayor (Russell Crowe) of an even more corrupt city. To get his life back, he’ll have to use all his street smarts and toughness to overcome the most ruthless of foes. In MAMA (Universal), a pair of young girls are found in a decrepit cabin five years after they disappeared from their suburban neighborhood. Their uncle and his girlfriend take the girls into their home, unaware they have also invited a malevolent spirit in as well. Jessica Chastain and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau from the hit HBO series “Game of Thrones” star.

January 25, 2013

MOVIE 43 (Relativity) takes 12 directors including some pretty well-known names and lets ’em loose on some of the most raunchy, debauched and disturbing vignettes and challenges them to make the stories intertwine. Good luck. PARKER (FilmDistrict) stars Jason Statham in the title role as a thief double-crossed by his crew and left for dead. He aims to even the score and recruits Jennifer Lopez to help him do it. Again, good luck.

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. These totals don’t include ancillary merchandising, home video sales or broadcast/cable sales, all of which are sure to push the bottom line beyond profitability. When production budgets aren’t available, I’ll be making a guess based on production values and star power. The first four movies listed are the four main previewed items; I’ve also chosen a selection of other major releases that made the preview issue as well.

RED TAILS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $58 Million. Domestic Gross: $49.9M Total: $49.9M Verdict: Flop.
CONTRABAND (Universal) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $66.5M Total: $96.3M Verdict: Hit.
UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (Screen Gems) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $62.3M Total: $160.1M Verdict: Profitable.
THE DIVIDE (Anchor Bay) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $130,839 Total: $130,839 Verdict: Flop.
THE DEVIL INSIDE (Paramount InSurge) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $53.3M Total: $101.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE GREY (Open Road) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $51.6M Total: $77.3M Verdict: Hit.
HAYWIRE (Relativity) Budget: $23M. Domestic Gross: $18.9M Total: $33.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
ONE FOR THE MONEY (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $26.4M Total: $36.9 Verdict: Flop.
MAN ON THE EDGE (Summit) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $18.6M Total: $46.2 Verdict: Lost Money.

FEBRUARY

Some of the year’s anticipated releases begin to trickle out as Valentine’s Day and the President’s Day long weekend give Hollywood a wake-up call from winter doldrums. 2013 brings us the return of Bruce Willis into his signature role, a comic book-based action film starring Stallone, a comedy with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman and a medical industry thriller from director Stephen Soderbergh.

A Good Day to Die Hard

CAN’T MISS

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD

RELEASE DATE: February 14, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Sebastian Koch, Cole Hauser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yulia Snigir, Amaury Nolasco, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Anne Vyalitsyna
STORY: When a rogue Russian general is broken out of prison, John McClane finds himself in the middle of it, this time protecting his son who has been caught up in the event. Father and son, long estranged, will have to learn to fight together to survive.
PROSPECTS: The preceding four films in the franchise have all done big box office. There’s no reason to believe this one won’t follow along, considering that it has almost zero competition and most of the holiday movies will have made their way out of the theaters by now.
OBSTACLES: Willis is getting a little long in the tooth for the character. It’s not certain that these sorts of movies still can carry the kind of numbers they have in the past.
FACTOID: This is the first script to be written specifically for a Die Hard film; the first was originally meant to be a sequel to a Frank Sinatra movie; the second was originally meant to be a sequel to Commando; the last two were both original scripts that the character of John McClane was written into. This script was always meant to be a part of the Die Hard franchise.

SHOULD SEE

IDENTITY THIEF

RELEASE DATE: February 8, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, Jon Favreau, Amanda Peet, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Genesis Rodriguez, Morris Chestnut, John Cho, Robert Patrick, Eric Stonestreet
STORY: A mild mannered Coloradan discovers that his credit cards have been racking up charges in Florida, a state he’s never been in. Realizing his identity has been stolen, he treks out to the Sunshine State to get his name and credit back, not realizing this will be a whole lot tougher than he thinks.
PROSPECTS: A real all-star comedy which should pull people into the theaters on its own. Might get a Bridesmaids-like push.
OBSTACLES: The overall theme of identity theft might hit a little too close to home; it’s a subject a lot of people are paranoid about and a comedy with this premise might leave people cold.
FACTOID: Gordon’s directorial debut was King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, an excellent documentary which will soon be reviewed here.

BULLET TO THE HEAD

RELEASE DATE: February 1, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christian Slater, Holt McCallany, Jason Momoa, Sarah Shahi, Jon Seda
STORY: A DC cop and a New Orleans-based hitman must form an uneasy alliance to take out the killers of their respective partners.
PROSPECTS: Based on an acclaimed graphic novel, Stallone is hot these days thanks to the Expendables films. Looks awfully gritty from the trailer.
OBSTACLES: May be too gritty for mainstream audiences. Comic book adaptations haven’t tended to do well if they don’t have superheroes in them.
FACTOID: Director Walter Hill, best known for the cult classic The Warriors is making his first film in ten years.

MIGHT SURPRISE

NO

RELEASE DATE: February 15, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Marcial Tagle, Nestor Cantillana, Jaime Vadell, Pascal Montero, Diego Munoz, Luis Gnecco
STORY: The incredible but true story of an advertising executive tasked to run a campaign for a referendum election that may either legitimize Chilean dictator Agustin Pinochet’s regime or end it. Under constant scrutiny from Pinochet’s thugs, he devises a bold plan to win the election.
PROSPECTS: Was one of the most acclaimed films to come out of last year’s Sundance Festival.
OBSTACLES: America rarely embraces subtitled foreign films.
FACTOID: Is Chile’s official entry into the 2013 Foreign Language Film Oscar competition.

ALSO

February 1, 2013

WARM BODIES (Summit) is set during the coming zombie apocalypse and finds a young zombie boy developing feelings for a human teenage girl. This sets off a chain reaction amongst the zombies and pisses off her dad to no end. Opening in limited release, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA (Lionsgate) continues the big screen versions of the TV show which re-creates actual hauntings, in this case a Southern gothic mansion in the Peachtree State.

February 8, 2013

SIDE EFFECTS (Open Road) is the latest from director Steven Soderbergh. In it the lives of a New York couple are turned upside down when the wife’s psychiatrist prescribes her a brand new drug which has some unanticipated complications. Jude Law, Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum star. A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III (A24) stars Charlie Sheen as the titular character whose perfect life goes careening into despair when his girlfriend dumps him. Using his inner circle of friends and family as sounding boards, he tries to resolve his feelings for her while attempting to move on in a kind of oddball version of Los Angeles. TOP GUN 3D (Paramount) gives us this live action video game in glorious 3D. Permission to lose that loving feeling again SIR!!! THE PLAYROOM (Roadside Attractions) has a teenage girl who becomes the surrogate parent to her three younger siblings in the 1970s as her parents drink themselves into oblivion. This limited release was one of the most talked-about films from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival and stars the extremely hot John Hawkes. THE SORCEROR AND THE WHITE SNAKE (Magnet) is based on an ancient Chinese legend about an herbalist who falls in love with a thousand-year-old white snake disguised as a woman. A wizard discovers her ruse and battles her potent magic to save the soul of the good herbalist. Jet Li stars in this limited release.

February 13, 2013

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (Warner Brothers) is a Romeo and Juliet-esque teen love story with a twist; the families have some extremely dark secrets that threaten to tear their small Southern town apart. Definitely one for the Twi-hards.

February 14, 2013

In SAFE HAVEN (Relativity), a mysterious young woman arrives in a small Carolina town. Despite her initial resistance, she starts to fall in love with the hunky widower who has plainly got goo-goo eyes for her. Then her mysterious past catches up with her. Could this have been written by anyone other than Nicholas Sparks? Of course it could have! Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough star. ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (Weinstein) is a 3D animated feature in which a heroic astronaut travels to a dangerous planet in response to an SOS signal. This turns out to be a fiendish trap. His nerdy by-the-book brother must travel to this planet of hideous creatures and break his brother out but this will be no easy feat – Area 51 is, after all, one of the most closely guarded military installations on Earth.

February 22, 2013

DARK SKIES (Dimension) is an alien abduction thriller from the producer of such horror hits as the Paranormal Activity series, Insidious and Sinister. SNITCH (Summit) is loosely based on actual events and stars Dwayne Johnson as a father whose teenage son is wrongly accused of being a drug dealer and is looking at a heavy prison sentence. In order to get his son off the hook, the dad agrees to go undercover in a notorious drug ring.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (Columbia) Budget: $57 Million. Domestic Gross: $51.8M Total: $132.6M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE VOW (Screen Gems) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $125.0M Total: $196.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THIS MEANS WAR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $54.8M Total: $156.5M Verdict: Made Money.
ACT OF VALOR (Relativity) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $70.0M Total: $81.3M Verdict: Big Hit.
CHRONICLE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $64.6M Total: $126.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND (New Line) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $126.2M Total: $325.9M Verdict: Big Hit.
SAFE HOUSE (Universal) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $126.2M Total: $207.9M Verdict: Made Money.
WANDERLUST (Universal) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.3M Total: $21.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
BIG MIRACLE (Universal) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $20.2M Total: $24.7M Verdict: Flop.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK (CBS) Budget: $N/A. Domestic Gross: $54.3M Total: $127.7M Verdict: Big Hit.

MARCH

Studios hope March and St. Paddy’s Day will bring them the luck of the Irish. The year really heats up this year as we return to one of the most beloved places in the annals of fantasy, we see a Stephen King classic remade, we see a re-imagining of one of the world’s most well-known fairy tales and DreamWorks animation takes us back to the Stone Age.

Oz The Great and Powerful

CAN’T MISS

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2013
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff, Joey King, Bruce Campbell, Abigail Spencer, Bill Cobbs
STORY: A magician and charlatan performing for the rubes in Kansas is swept away by a twister into the magical land of Oz where he gets caught in a struggle between good and easy. At first mistaken for a wizard, he needs to identify who is good, who is evil and which side he will fall on.
PROSPECTS: Director Sam Raimi has moved on from the Spider-Man trilogy and takes on a different kind of franchise. The trailers for the CGI-heavy production look like a new take on the beloved fantasy series that is different yet strangely familiar.
OBSTACLES: There’s always the specter of The Wizard of Oz hanging over films about Oz. Nothing can compare to it and if this movie attempts to it will fail.
FACTOID: This is Disney’s second Oz-related film, the first being Return to Oz in 1985.

SHOULD SEE

THE CROODS

RELEASE DATE: March 22, 2013
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman
STORY: A Stone Age family which has survived by staying in their cave is forced into the world and discovers it a more wonderful – and dangerous – place than they could have possibly imagined.
PROSPECTS: Really the first major full-length animation feature of 2013 (OK, there’s the Escape From Planet Earth thing but nobody’s really expecting big numbers rom that) and Fox is getting some serious promo going for this. The kids are going to be frantic to see this.
OBSTACLES: It looks pretty good thus far but kids have more entertainment choices these days and a bad movie will not get the kind of box office they have in the past.
FACTOID: This will be the first DreamWorks Animation film to be distributed by Fox after years of being distributed by Paramount.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Byung-hun Lee, Adrianne Palicki, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Park, Channing Tatum, D.J. Cotrona, Ray Stevenson
STORY: When the Joes are ambushed and massacred, they realize that they were betrayed at a very high level within the government. To make matters worse they have been set up to take the fall for actions they didn’t commit and the surviving members are now fugitives. While they know Cobra is the source of their troubles, extricating themselves from this mess may be more than even the Joes can handle.
PROSPECTS: Johnson and Willis are big stars who can put a lot of butts in seats. The toy franchise has a great deal of name recognition and the first film in the franchise was a big hit.
OBSTACLES: The first movie took a critical bashing and audiences didn’t regard it too highly either. Nearly the entire cast and creative team has been replaced and the movie was delayed from last summer to the spring to convert to 3D which might worry some about the quality of the movie.
FACTOID: Johnson plays Roadblock who in the comics was once a chef. One of Johnson’s trademark lines for the WWE is “Can you smell what the Rock is cooking!”

THE HOST

RELEASE DATE: March 29, 2013
STUDIO: Open Road
STARRING : Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, Jake Abel, Diane Kruger, William Hurt, Frances Fisher, Bokeem Woodbine, Chandler Canterbury
STORY: In a future when the Earth has been conquered by parasitical aliens that inhabit our bodies, the parasite inside one human body falls in love with a young man who carries no parasite. .
PROSPECTS: This is the newest potential film franchise from Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight books. From what I understand, it takes a lot of the traits from that series and transfers it to a sci-fi setting.
OBSTACLES: Can they capture lightning in a bottle again? Part of the reason the film franchise succeeded was the attraction of the pre-teen audience (and their mums) to Robert Pattinson and Tyler Lautner, as well as their identification with Kristen Stewart. Without leads who connect with their audience in the same way, this franchise will be dead in the water.
FACTOID: The movie was primarily filmed in Louisiana and New Mexico.

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, Ewan McGregor, Eleanor Tomlinson, Eddie Marsan, Warwick Davis, Ewen Bremner, Ralph Brown
STORY: When a young farmboy unwittingly opens a gateway into a dimension inhabited by a race of fearsome, ruthless giants bent on the destruction of humanity, he must find his inner hero to help stop the coming armageddon. Inspired by a feisty princess, he just might do it.
PROSPECTS: The latest from Bryan Singer whose work on the X-Men franchise has been stellar.
OBSTACLES: The movie was delayed nearly a full year; that kind of thing tends to send out the wrong kind of buzz.
FACTOID: Hoult played Dr. Hank “The Beast” McCoy in X-Men First Class. Singer directed the first two movies in the franchise and is gearing up to direct the sequel, X-Men: Days of Future Passed.

MIGHT SURPRISE

STOKER

RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2013
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver, Lucas Till, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Brown
STORY: After her father dies in an auto accident, his orphaned daughter goes to live with her uncle and her emotionally unstable aunt. Soon it appears that his motives might not be altruistic and that she might not be altogether unfavorable to the idea..
PROSPECTS: The English language debut of acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-Woo which is going to get a lot of film geeks salivating at the prospect.
OBSTACLES: The undercurrent of incest might just drive audiences away.
FACTOID: The original cast was Carey Mulligan, Jodie Foster and Colin Firth in the roles that eventually were re-cast with Wasikowska, Kidman and Goode respectively.

ALSO

March 1, 2013

In 21 AND OVER (Relativity) a young man celebrating his 21st birthday the night before a critical med school interview turns debauchery into an art form. Drunken orgy, here we come! THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (CBS) picks up where the last one left off where the only surviving member of the Sweetzer family is found wandering the woods with entire chunks of her memory of the last few months missing. Soon it becomes apparent that her previous exorcism would not be her last. PHANTOM (Magnet) stars David Duchovny and Ed Harris as crew members on a Soviet submarine which may be the key to World War III but the strange goings on in the sub suggest it might be haunted. Opening in limited release and VOD only.

March 8, 2013

ADMISSION (Focus) stars Tina Fey as an uptight admissions officer for an Ivy League school who discovers that the brilliant but unconventional applicant may actually be the son she gave up for adoption years ago. DEAD MAN DOWN (FilmDistrict) has a heartless assassin and the right hand man of a vicious crime boss seduced and eventually blackmailed by a crime victim seeking revenge. Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace star. Opening in limited release, THE ABC’S OF DEATH (Magnet) is an anthology film by 26 of the world’s most acclaimed horror directors tasked with creating a chapter of the movie about death each of which starts with a different letter of the alphabet..

March 15, 2013

CARRIE (Screen Gems) is a remake of the classic Brian DePalma interpretation of one of Stephen King’s most chilling novels. Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the title role as a teenage girl heavily sheltered by her religious fanatic mom but as the girl reaches puberty, starts to develop incredible telekinetic powers. THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (New Line) stars Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as a pair of Las Vegas magicians whose long-time partnership disguises the fact they can’t stand each other. They are forced to close ranks when an arrogant street magician threatens their livelihood on as Kings of the Strip. K-11 (Breaking Glass) comes out in limited release and is about a high-powered record executive who wakes up from a drug-induced blackout in a maximum security prison wing for gay and transgendered prisoners without any idea how he got there or how he can regain his freedom.

March 20, 2013

EDEN (Phase 4) is based on a true story of a Korean-American teenager who is kidnapped from a New Mexico bar and put to work as a sex slave in Las Vegas. Jamie Chung stars in this limited release thriller.

March 22, 2013

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (FilmDistrict) stars Gerard Butler as a former Secret Service agent who was forced to leave in disgrace who is called back to active duty when the White House is taken over by terrorists. In limited release is LOVE AND HONOR (IFC) which is set during the Vietnam War. Liam Hemsworth stars as a soldier who tries to help his best friend reclaim his girlfriend’s heart during while AWOL during a time of social upheaval and protest.

March 29, 2013

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Focus) follows the footsteps of Crime and Punishment and Les Miserables as a police officer and a motorcycle rider are entwined in a years-long struggle when the cyclist commits a crime in order to support his child. TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION: CONFESSIONS OF A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (Lionsgate) is about a woman whose decision to leave an existing relationship for another man has unforeseen consequences for her life.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate) Budget: $78 Million. Domestic Gross: $408.0M Total: $686.5M Verdict: Blockbuster.
JOHN CARTER (Disney) Budget: $250M. Domestic Gross: $73.1M Total: $282.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE RAVEN (Relativity) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $16.0M Total: $26.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX (Universal) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $214.0M Total: $348.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WRATH OF THE TITANS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $83.7M Total: $302.0 Verdict: Broke Even.
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN (CBS) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $9.1M Total: $34.6 Verdict: Probably Made Money.
21 JUMP STREET (Columbia) Budget: $42M. Domestic Gross: $138.5M Total: $201.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
MIRROR MIRROR (Relativity) Budget: $85M. Domestic Gross: $64.9M Total: $166.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Columbia) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $31.1M Total: $121.6M Verdict: Made Money.
A THOUSAND WORDS (DreamWorks) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $18.5M Total: $20.6M Verdict: Flop.
THINK LIKE A MAN (Screen Gems) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $91.6M Total: $96.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
PROJECT X (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $54.7M Total: $100.9M Verdict: Probable Hit.
BULLY (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $3.5M Total: $3.7M Verdict: Probably Made Money.

APRIL

Spring break presages the summer and normally there are almost always at least a hint of the upcoming summer blockbuster season and this year is no exception. Director Sam Raimi remakes one of his iconic horror films, one of America’s greatest sports heroes gets a biopic, Tom Cruise stars in a groundbreaking sci-fi film and Michael Bay takes time out from the Transformers franchise with a somewhat smaller-in-scope crime action film.

Oblivion

CAN’T MISS

OBLIVION

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2013 on IMAX; April 19 as a Wide release
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Melissa Leo, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Zoe Bell
STORY: Mankind has won their war against an alien invader. However the surface of the planet is rendered nearly uninhabitable. Drones are removing the last of the resources for human habitations in the sky. However when one of the last drone repairmen finds a beautiful stranger in a downed spacecraft, he sets in motion events that will call into question everything he thought was true.
PROSPECTS: This has gotten enormous Internet buzz for a few years. It is director Joseph Kosinski’s follow-up to TRON: Legacy and when he couldn’t get it made quickly enough, fashioned it as an illustrated novella which got enough interest to secure financing and get Cruise involved.
OBSTACLES: Sci-fi can be rather dicey without a lot of space battles and a convincing universe to play in.
FACTOID: While the illustrated novella that Kosinski and artist partner Andree Wallin has been completed, Radical Publishing (which owns the rights) delayed the publishing of it in order to coincide with the release of the movie.

SHOULD SEE

42

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Brad Beyer, Alan Tudyk, Lucas Black, John C. McGinley
STORY: A visionary baseball executive recognizes that in order for his club to be competitive, he’ll have to go outside the box to get the best players available. Billy Bean? No, Branch Rickey and the player he’s after will change baseball – and American society – forever. The player’s name; Jack Roosevelt Robinson, better known as Jackie.
PROSPECTS: One of the greatest stories in sports. While some might remember Robinson starring in his biopic The Jackie Robinson Story it’s high time he got his story done right. He remains one of the most iconic figures not only in sports but in civil rights as well.
OBSTACLES: Baseball movies, reflecting the status of the sport as the no-longer-national pastime, haven’t done particularly well lately. Boseman, who’ll play Robinson, is an unknown and the movie will largely stand or fall based on how well he handles being the lead.
FACTOID: Rickey was initially meant to be played by Robert Redford but he had to turn down the part due to scheduling issues.

PAIN AND GAIN

RELEASE DATE: April 26, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Rob Corddry, Tony Shalhoub, Rebel Wilson, Ken Jeong
STORY: Based on an actual incident, a group of bodybuilders get involved in kidnapping, extortion and murder in the Miami of the late 80s.
PROSPECTS: Director Michael Bay has a pretty good track record although you’d have to go back to Bad Boys to find a movie of this sort on his résumé. Wahlberg and Johnson are both poised to have extremely good years with some high profile projects for each on the horizon.
OBSTACLES: I’m not sure whether the movie means to be a comedy, a crime drama or a mix of both. If the latter, it’s going to take some delicate tightrope walking to pull it off.
FACTOID: This is the lowest budget Bay has had to work with since Bad Boys – which was his feature debut.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Shia LaBeouf, Robert Redford, Julie Christie, Richard Jenkins, Susan Sarandon, Stephen Root, Sam Elliott, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, Anna Kendrick
STORY: A young reporter encounters a man with a hidden secret; he’s been a fugitive from the law for over 30 years and is one of the last members of the Weather Underground still free.
PROSPECTS: An amazing cast with Redford – who may well be as good a director as he is a star – behind the lens.
OBSTACLES: Redford is a national treasure but I suspect the politics of this may keep older, conservative audiences out of theaters.
FACTOID: This is the seventh film to be directed by Redford.

ALSO

April 5, 2013

THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) is a buddy cop flick with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as a straight-laced by-the-book FBI agent and a boorish street-smart Boston cop respectively chasing down a Beantown drug ring. JURASSIC PARK 3D (Universal) seeks to add a bit more to Steven Spielberg’s bank account as his blockbuster is given the 3D conversion treatment.

April 12, 2013

EVIL DEAD (Tri-Star) is a remake of Sam Raimi’s legendary horror film as a group of vacationing young people find the Book of the Dead in a remote mountain cabin and in doing so unleash hell on Earth. SCARY MOVIE 5 (Dimension) takes on Black Swan but this time without Anna Farris. This time Ashley Tisdale stars. DISCONNECT (LD Entertainment) interweaves three different tales of people searching for human connection in a digital age that discourages it. Opening in limited release.

April 24, 2013

THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST (IFC) is about a young man of Pakistani descent who at a crucial time in his career finds himself contending with the demands of his chase for the American dream, a hostage crisis and his own cultural identity. Opening in limited release.

April 26, 2013

THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) commands a high-powered ensemble cast (including Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl and Amanda Seyfried. Here the divorced adoptive parents of the groom must pretend to be still together when the ultra-conservative biological mother decides to attend unexpectedly. In AT ANY PRICE (Sony Classics) a father and son clash over the son’s future; dad wants him to rule the family farming empire while junior wants to race cars. Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron star in this limited release. Also in limited release, THE LORDS OF SALEM (Anchor Bay) is Rob Zombie’s latest epic horror extravaganza as a comely DJ gets involved with a new rock band only to discover that they are not what they seem.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT (Universal) Budget: $30 Million. Domestic Gross: $28.7M Total: $53.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
AMERICAN REUNION (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $56.8M Total: $234.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $42.1M Total: $66.5M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
THE THREE STOOGES (20th Century Fox) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $44.3M Total: $53.0M Verdict: Lost Money..
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD(Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
SAFE (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.1M Total: $40.4M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $60.5M Total: $92.5M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
LOCKOUT (PREVIEWED AS MS-ONE: MAXIMUM SECURITY) (FilmDistrict) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $14.3M Total: $28.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
CHIMPANZEE (DisneyNature) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $29.0M Total: $29.0M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $31.6M Total: $36.4M Verdict: Hit.

SUMMER

Summer is the movie fan’s Nirvana as the big blockbusters muscle their way into theaters. There is much to look forward to here as the first film in the post-Avengers Marvel filmed universe makes its appearance, DC tries to reboot an iconic superhero, JJ Abrams returns to where no man has gone before and Guillermo del Toro attempts to take on the alien invasion genre with giant robots. Cinema365 will present our annual summer preview at the end of April but for now here’s a quick look at some of the movies anticipated for the upcoming summer.

Iron Man 3

CAN’T MISS

IRON MAN 3

RELEASE DATE: May 3, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Gwynneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Ben Kingsley, Jon Favreau, Wang Xuequi, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale
STORY: Phase 2 of the Marvel filmed universe begins as an unknown enemy attacks and destroys Tony Stark’s personal life. His suit is of little or no help as he tries to find out who is behind the attack and whether or not he is more than the suit he designed.
PROSPECTS: The first Marvel movie post-Avengers is bound to get plenty of box office love.
OBSTACLES: This is the first film in the series not to be directed by Jon Favreau and while Shane Black is an esteemed screenwriter, his skills as a director have never been tested.
FACTOID: One of the scenes was filmed inside Epic Games, a videogame development company responsible for The Gears of War franchise among others.

SHOULD SEE

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
STORY: After a terrorist act from within Starfleet forces the Enterprise to return home, Captain Kirk is faced with an unstoppable weapon that he must capture at any cost – even the lives of his own crew.
PROSPECTS: The franchise is back big time and is teasing elements of the biggest Star Trek movie of the first incarnation.
OBSTACLES: There is always backlash after a successful franchise re-launch. The same fanboys who were singing the praises of JJ Abrams after the first movie will be trashing him before the second.
FACTOID: Weller previously appeared in the TV series “Star Trek: Enterprise” as John Frederick Paxton.

MAN OF STEEL

RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Russell Crowe, Christopher Meloni, Ayelet Zurer
STORY: The Superman story gets rebooted with a new Man of Steel, a new origin and familiar villains – General Zod for one.
PROSPECTS: Zack Snider is at the helm, the same fella who did the acclaimed Watchmen adaptation. The trailers have looked much darker than previous films in the franchise, which has in the past translated to box office gold.
OBSTACLES: Superman is not nearly as hot as Batman among comic book fans. Snider’s last movie, Sucker Punch, tanked.
FACTOID: The character of Whitey Fordman was not in the comics but was created for the “Smallville” TV series.

WORLD WAR Z

RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Eric West, Abigail Hargrove, Mustafa Harris
STORY: An employee of the UN races around the world to try and stop the zombie apocalypse as a pandemic topples governments and threatens the survival of the human race.
PROSPECTS: Brad Pitt is always a plus. The book this is based on is a bestseller and one of the most talked-about books of the last ten years. Zombies are hot thanks to “Walking Dead.”
OBSTACLES: Too many zombies spoil the broth? A definite potential for overkill here.
FACTOID: Scenes were filmed on the flight deck of the British Royal Navy helicopter carrier RFA Argus.

PACIFIC RIM

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Brad William Henke
STORY: When Earth is invaded by gigantic creatures emerging from the ocean, giant robots are created to battle the monsters but even so the human race is losing the war. Everything will hinge on a single, outdated robot and the unlikely pilots driving it.
PROSPECTS: Guillermo del Toro is much loved among the fanbase and this has been on an awful lot of radars since it was first announced. Early pictures and the trailer have done nothing to dispel the buzz, which is a good sign.
OBSTACLES: Giant robots have been much more of a box office winner in other parts of the globe than they have here.
FACTOID: Tom Cruise was once considered for the role Idris Elba was eventually cast in.

EPIC

RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Knoxville, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler
STORY: A young girl is accidentally transported into a hidden world within the forest outside her own home, one in which good and evil battle in the guise of fantastic creatures and where she becomes the turning point in the war that may destroy this world – and our own.
PROSPECTS: A very compelling trailer has even non-animated feature fans frothing at the mouth for this one. The voice cast is kinda quirky but there is enough star power to put butts in seats.
OBSTACLES: Very heavy competition for family movies this summer; will this one stand out?
FACTOID: The second Blue Skies Studios animated feature to be based on a William Joyce story (the first was Robots; this one was based on his book Leaf Men).

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE

RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, Hans Matheson, Callan Mulvey, Jack O’Connell, Igal Naor
STORY: While the Persians were winning a costly battle at Thermopylae, they were also simultaneously meeting an army led by the Athenian general Themistocles.
PROSPECTS: 300 is still a big favorite among both movie buffs and fanboys alike. It changed the look of movies forever.
OBSTACLES: A completely different creative team could make this a second-rate summer film and a box office dud if it gets bad word of mouth.
FACTOID: Joel Edgerton was offered the role of Themistocles but he turned it down. Relative unknown Stapleton was then given the part.

MIGHT SURPRISE

ELYSIUM

RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Michael Shanks, Carly Pope
STORY: In the future the haves live on a luxurious space station while the have-nots live on a ruined, broken Earth barely able to subsist. A man with his back against the wall undertakes a daring mission that might bring equality at last to the human race.
PROSPECTS: Director Neil Blomkamp was, with Copley, responsible for the success of District 9 He gets Damon and Foster, not to mention a budget, this time around.
OBSTACLES: Science Fiction with a social conscience hasn’t traditionally done well at the box office.
FACTOID: Was originally scheduled for release in April but was pushed out to October following some necessary reshoots.

ALSO

ABOUT TIME (Universal) is a romantic comedy with elements of time travel from director Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and stars Rachel McAdams and Bill Nighy (May 10). THE GREAT GATSBY (Warner Brothers), originally supposed to be released this past Christmas was bumped up to the summer. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, it has been converted to 3D and stars Leonardo Di Caprio in the title role of the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic (May 10). TYLER PERRY PRESENTS WE THE PEOPLES (Lionsgate) is an urban romantic comedy in which a hapless working class fella attempts to propose to his upper crust girlfriend only to fall afoul of her snooty family (May 10). BLACK ROCK (LD Entertainment) has three childhood friends taking a girls weekend on an island off the Maine coast which turns into a grueling fight for survival (May 17). FAST AND FURIOUS 6 (Universal) is the latest in the franchise and returns most of the cast and behind the camera talent from the fifth film (May 24). THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) puts the Wolf pack on a road trip to Vegas. No bachelor party, no wedding to go to, just three guys spending some time in Sin City together. What could go wrong, right? Plenty (May 24). THE PURGE (Universal) posits a society in which any sort of crime including murder is legal for 12 hours once a year, and what one family will do to survive those 12 hours (May 31). AFTER EARTH (Columbia) stars Will and Jaden Smith as a father and son who crash land on Earth a thousand years from now to find it an even more dangerous place than it is now, and time ticking down on their chances of survival (June 7).THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) reunites The Wedding Crashers‘ Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn as a couple of salesmen who try to reinvent themselves as a couple of interns at a tech company (June 7). NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) combines four of the world’s greatest illusionists as they rob from corrupt corporate vaults and give back to those who were most hurt by those corporate shenanigans, all while being chased by the FBI’s best and brightest (June 7). THIS IS THE END (Columbia) has five actors, all playing themselves, dealing with a post-Apocalyptic L.A. Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Jonah Hill and James Franco star (June 14). MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney*Pixar) is a prequel to the animated hit Monsters, Inc. (June 21). KICK-ASS 2 (Universal) ups the stakes from the original as Kick-Ass assembles a “super-team” to deal with the Red Mist, who plots revenge against Kick-Ass and Hit Girl for the death of his father (June 28). WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) tells what happens when a paramilitary group takes over the White House. Channing Tatum stars (June 28). DESPICABLE ME 2 (Universal) has Gru and his minions taking on something even more terrifying than evil geniuses – little girls (July 3). THE LONE RANGER (Disney) is a re-imagining of the classic western tale by the producers of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto, his faithful companion (July 3). GROWN-UPS 2 (Columbia) is the continued mis-adventures of childhood friends turn grown children Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider, this time taking on a group of frat boys (July 12). THE CONJURING (Warner Brothers) is based on the true stories of Ed and Lorraine Warren, considered the leading experts on possession and hauntings (July 19). R.I.P.D. (Universal) is based on the Dark Horse comic book series and has zombie cops policing the undead. Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Bacon lead the all-star cast (July 19). TURBO (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a snail who longs to be an Indie 500 champion (July 19). THE WOLVERINE (20th Century Fox) returns Hugh Jackman into his best-known role, this time taking on the Yakuza in Japan in one of the best-known story arcs from the comic series (July 26). In THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) the evil wizard Gargamel creates some creatures called the Naughties meant to lead Smurfette astray, forcing her fellow Smurfs to Smurf off to Paris where they can Smurf the day…oh this is so Smurfed (July 31).In RED 2 (Summit) reunited the retired CIA operatives as they battle a group of vicious killers across Europe and possibly into the AARP (August 2). PLANES (Disney) is a 2D airborne spin-off of the Cars film which was originally intended for direct-to-video but is getting a theatrical release instead. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad (August 9). WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) stars Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston as a couple of people forced by circumstances to masquerade as a family in order to bring in a pot shipment from Mexico (August 9). In 2 GUNS (Universal) a DEA agent and a US Navy Intelligence officer who despise each other are forced to rely on each other when their undercover operation in a vicious Mexican drug cartel goes south and their superiors leave them dangling in the wind. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg star (August 16). PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (20th Century Fox) continues the young adult fantasy series as the son of Poseidon is forced to seek out the Golden Fleece in order to save his home and training ground (August 16). THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) stars Aubrey Plaza as an over-achieving high school graduate who wants to achieve a wish list of all the fun stuff she missed out in high school before embarking on her college career (August 16). THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES (Screen Gems) comes from another young adult fantasy series looking to hit it big in Hollywood, this time staring Lily Collins as a young girl who discovers she is of half-angel descent caught up in a battle between good and evil (August 23). In YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) family members at a reunion celebrating the wedding anniversary of the parents turns deadly when those attending start getting picked off one by one (August 23). CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) is a courtroom drama in which two ex-lovers who parted on less than friendly terms forced to co-operate as members of the defense team in a terrorism trial which turns out to be far more dangerous than they could have possibly imagined (August 28). In GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) a former race car driver is forced to get back behind the wheel of a car by a mysterious kidnapper who has his wife. If the driver doesn’t complete the increasingly dangerous mission he’s been given, his wife will die – and his every move is being watched by dashboard-mounted cameras (August 30). In ONE DIRECTION CONCERT MOVIE 3D (TriStar) the popular British pop group play songs from their first two albums (August 30). SATANIC (Weinstein) is about a college student remaining on campus over Thanksgiving break only to be stalked by a vicious gang (August 30). INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 (FilmDistrict) continues the story of the surprise hit as the demons possessing a young boy are not quite done with his family yet (August 30).

FALL

This is the portion of the 2013 schedule that is the most likely to change quite a bit, although there are a few movies we can pretty much expect to see barring unexpected delays. We’ll be looking for a big-budget version of Orson Scott Card’s space warfare classic, Peter Jackson continuing his Hobbit trilogy, new installments in the Hunger Games and Sin City franchises and a reboot of Tom Clancy’s bestselling (and box office champion) spy series. At the end of August, the annual Cinema365 Fall Preview should hit the site with more a more detailed look at all things Fall/Holiday cinematic.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug

CAN’T MISS

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

RELEASE DATE: December 13, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Lee Pace, Sylvester McCoy, Jed Brophy, Graham McTavish, Benedict Cumberbatch
STORY: The second film in the trilogy has the band of heroes navigating the dangerous Desolation of Smaug on their way to Erebor. Here the band will find that their foe no longer slumbers – and that the dangers on the way to their goal may be more than even they can overcome.
PROSPECTS: Tolkien fans turned out in huge numbers as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set a December opening weekend record.
OBSTACLES: The reviews were less than spectacular and word of mouth was that the movie was a bit of a disappointment which may hinder the chances of the second installment in the trilogy to build on that momentum.
FACTOID: Both Ian Holm and Christopher Lee for reasons of health were unable to fly out to New Zealand so all their scenes were filmed at Pinewood Studios in London.

SHOULD SEE

ENDER’S GAME

RELEASE DATE: November 1, 2013
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld, Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Nenso Anozie, Andrea Powell, Brendan Meyer
STORY: During a war with a vicious enemy alien race, humanity’s hope may rest with a young boy who shows extraordinary abilities in battle school.
PROSPECTS: The series of books on Ender Wiggin by Orson Scott Card are considered by many to be a modern sci-fi classic. Having Ford and Kingsley with up-and-coming young stars like Steinfeld, Breslin and Butterfield can only be a good thing.
OBSTACLES: Not a slam dunk and a fairly large budget will make it a rough go to make a profit on this one.
FACTOID: The movie originated as a short story published in the August 1977 issue of Analog Magazine, which was then expanded into a novel which then was turned into a comic book which then turned into a series of novels and then a film.

JACK RYAN

RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Peter Anderson, Kenneth Brannagh, David Paymer, Colm Feore, Gemma Chan
STORY: A young CIA analyst uncovers a plot to destabilize the American economy from within.
PROSPECTS: Clancy’s Ryan has always done well at the box office and with the all-star cast in front of the camera and Brannagh behind it, there’s no reason to believe this one won’t as well.
OBSTACLES: The character of Jack Ryan no longer has the box office cache he once had. It’s been eleven years since the last Jack Ryan film and that’s an eternity by Hollywood standards.
FACTOID: This is the first film in the series not to be directly based on the plots of one of the books.

HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanly Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
STORY: After Katness wins the 74th Hunger Games, she embarks on a Victory Tour of the provinces as PanEm gears up for the 75th edition, which will change the nation – and Katness – forever..
PROSPECTS: The first movie exceeded even the most wildest expectations and the void left by the end of the Twilight series will no doubt be filled by this one.
OBSTACLES: Moving the release date from March to November will give the film more competition to go up against and who knows how that will affect the box office receipts.
FACTOID: Director Gary Ross was asked to return but declined; after considering a short list of A-list directors, Francis Lawrence was given the nod.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

RELEASE DATE: October 4, 2013
STUDIO: Dimension
STARRING: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaimie King, Jamie Chung, Dennis Haysbert, Clive Owen, Alexa Vega, Michael Madsen
STORY: Marv and Dwight team up to help out an old flame of Dwight’s get out of a sticky situation, only to discover they’ve been set up as patsy’s for the murder of her rich husband.
PROSPECTS: The first film was a fan favorite and the sequel has been eagerly awaited for more than a decade now.
OBSTACLES: Movies that wait this long to get made rarely generate the same interest.
FACTOID: Three characters from the first film had to be recast; Devin Aoki due to her pregnancy and Brittany Murphy and Michael Clark Duncan due to their untimely deaths.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD

RELEASE DATE: November 8, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins
STORY: When the Dark Elves return to the realm of Asgard, not even the might of Odin and the Asgardian knights can withstand their foe. To save his realm and ours Thor may be called upon to sacrifice everything.
PROSPECTS: The second film in Marvel Phase 2 shows no signs of slowing down the machine-like success of the studio.
OBSTACLES: Is the mighty Marvel movie machine overdue for a flop? While director Alan Taylor did a great job with the HBO series “Game of Thrones” he has almost no feature film experience, having helmed only Palookaville in 1995.
FACTOID: Josh Dallas played Fandral in the first film but was unable to appear in this one due to his schedule on the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” His place was taken by Zachary Levi who originally was supposed to get the part for the first film but whose schedule on the TV show “Chuck” prevented him from taking the role.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE WORLD’S END

RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Julian Seager, Paul Kennington, Mark Fox
STORY: A group of friends who failed an epic pub crawl 20 years previously reunite to attempt it once again, ending at the legendary World’s End pub. However what they fail to realize is that the world really is ending and they may very well have the fate of the world in their own incapable hands.
PROSPECTS: The third in the so-called “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” has been having fans salivating for a year since the film was first announced.
OBSTACLES: None of the first two films in the series have risen above cult film status.
FACTOID: Pegg, Frost and director Edgar Wright first worked together on the British sci-fi TV series “Spaced.”

ALSO

RIDDICK (Universal) takes the mercenary to the deadliest planet he’s been to yet, pursued by bounty hunters who are his ticket off-world – assuming he can survive (September 6). BATTLE OF THE YEAR (Screen Gems) takes us to the Break Dancing Olympics, an event the United States hasn’t won in 15 years but a b-boy wants to put a change to all that (September 13). I, FRANKENSTEIN (Lionsgate) is the first of several major studio re-imaginings of the Mary Shelley masterpiece although this one is based on an acclaimed comic series (September 13). THE LITTLE MERMAID 3D (Disney) gives yet another Disney classic the 3D treatment. Sigh (September 13). PRISONERS (Warner Brothers) stars Hugh Jackman as a carpenter whose daughter has been kidnapped. When local cops are unable to help, he takes the law into his own hands, running him up against an arrogant big city detective (September 20). RUSH (Universal) is the much-anticipated Ron Howard-directed true story about the Grand Prix rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda (September 20). STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES 3D (20th Century Fox) continues the 3D enhancement treatment of the George Lucas epic space opera (September 20). In CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2 (Columbia) Flint Lockwood discovers that his invention that converts rainwater into food is still operating but turning the rain into mutant food-animal hybrids that are threatening the Earth once again (September 27). RUNNER RUNNER (20th Century Fox) is set in the world of online gambling as the owner of a gaming site and his protégé clash (September 27). In THE TOMB (Summit) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone team up to break out of the most fortified prison in the world (September 27). DELIVERY MAN (DreamWorks) stars Vince Vaughn as a man in debt to the mob who discovers that his sperm donations have fathered 533 children (October 4). PARANOIA (Relativity) stars Liam Hemsworth as an intern ordered by a ruthless CEO to spy on a rival within the company. He soon realizes that he is a pawn in a much larger game (October 4). STAR WARS: EPISODE III REVENGE OF THE SITH 3D (20th Century Fox) completes the prequel 3D conversion treatment (October 4). CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (Columbia) is the story of the courageous sea captain who offered himself up as a hostage to Somali pirates in exchange for his crew. Tom Hanks stars in the title role (October 11). HAUNTS (20th Century Fox) is a supernatural thriller that Fox is hoping will be a Halloween franchise starter (October 11). OLDBOY (FilmDistrict) is based on an acclaimed Korean thriller re-imagined by Spike Lee. In it Josh Brolin is released from captivity for 20 years and is given just three days to discover why he was imprisoned (October 11). MALAVITA (Relativity) is the latest action film from Luc Besson and stars Robert De Niro as the patriarch of a mob family who is relocated to Normandy under the Witness Protection Program, but old habits die hard (October 18). NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) tells what happens when a stay-at-home mom and former D.A. allows a handsome man to come into her home to wait for help after his car is run off the road and it turns out he has less than good intentions (October 18). In SEVENTH SON (Warner Brothers) an unspeakable evil is about to be unleashed on the world and only the seventh son of a seventh son may stop it. Jeff Bridges and Ben Barnes star (October 18). PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 (Paramount) continues the found video franchise where it left off (October 25). MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN (DreamWorks) is based on the classic Jay Ward cartoon in which the world’s smartest person – a dog named Peabody – invents a time machine which his pet boy Sherman uses to cause havoc and hilarity (November 1). In FROZEN (Disney) a courageous young girl teams up with a mountain man and his reindeer to free a kingdom trapped in eternal winter; yes it’s an animated feature (November 25). ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (Paramount) looks to stay classy in San Diego one more time – depending on what your definition of classy is (December 20). LAST VEGAS (CBS) has a group of friends throwing a big Vegas-style bachelor party for the only one in the group who’s remained single. The all-star cast includes Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro and Kevin Cline (December 20). MONUMENTS MEN (Columbia) is the amazing true story of a group of art historians and museum directors who attempt to save some of Europe’s most precious art from the Nazis (December 20). SAVING MR. BANKS (Disney) tells how Walt Disney managed to convince curmudgeonly author E.L. Travers to let him make a film based on her book Mary Poppins (December 20). WALKING WITH DINOSAURS (20th Century Fox) takes over where the Discovery Channel series left off, creating an immersive 3D atmosphere for audiences to see and feel what the world was like in the age of the dinosaur (December 20). In 47 RONIN (Universal) a group of outcast samurai seek revenge on the merciless overlord who slew their lord. Keanu Reeves stars (December 25). THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (20th Century Fox) has Ben Stiller re-imagine the James Thurber classic about a man who daydreams about amazing adventures while his own life drifts into the mundane (December 25).

MOVIES CURRENTLY WITHOUT RELEASE DATES BUT LIKELY TO OPEN

TRANCE (Fox Searchlight) is the latest from Oscar-winning (and Olympic opening ceremonies) director Danny Boyle returning to his crime drama roots as an art auctioneer double crosses a gang of art thieves he’d been working for and is badly injured. When he revives, his memory is gone – and the gang forces a beautiful hypnotherapist to retrieve it so they can find their stolen loot…or else. LABOR DAY (Paramount) stars Kate Winslet as a single mom who while driving her son home gives a wounded, desperate man a ride which quickly becomes a nightmare. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (Warner Brothers) resurrects the massively popular post-apocalyptic series with Tom Hardy in the title role. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (Weinstein) has a family torn apart when their alcoholic patriarch disappears. HIDDEN (Warner Brothers) is about a family that takes refuge in a fallout shelter during an epidemic only to discover that their safety might be an illusion. MOCKINGBIRD (Universal) is a horror flick about a family given a camera with explicit instructions they must follow or someone will die. WINTER’S TALE (Warner Brothers) is a fantasy set in a both the 19th century and present-day Manhattan involving a thief, a dying girl and a flying white horse and no, they don’t walk into a bar. EMPIRE STATE (Lionsgate) is about a pair of childhood friends intent on robbing an armored truck and the cop who might thwart their plans. NOT SAFE FOR WORK (Universal) has a man trapped in an office building while a killer is loose inside. BLACK SKY (Warner Brothers) is about a group of high school students documenting the aftermath of a devastating tornado. FOXCATCHER (Columbia) is about the murder of Olympian David Schultz by wealthy patron John DuPont. MACHETE KILLS (Open Road) is the sequel to the cult hit and has the former Federale taking on a maniacal arms dealer at the behest of the U.S. government. GRAVITY (Warner Brothers) is a sci-fi thriller from director Alfonso Cuaron starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as a pair of astronauts stranded in space when their spacecraft is destroyed. HUNTER KILLER (Relativity) stars Gerard Butler and Sam Worthington, as an untested sub captain must team up with a team of Navy SEALs to rescue the kidnapped Russian President.

As you can see, there is plenty to look forward to in 2013 for movie fans and this doesn’t even count the hundreds of indie and foreign films yet to be scheduled from the smaller distributors, or the many major projects that have yet to set a release date but will be appearing sometime during 2013. And if that wasn’t enough, 2014 has plenty of goodies in store with the conclusion of the Hobbit trilogy, sequels to the Transformers, X-Men, Hunger Games and Spider-Man franchises, remakes of Godzilla and Robocop, a new take on the Disney villain Maleficent and the Marvel Phase Two films continuing with the Captain America sequel and a surprising heroic team known as the Guardians of the Galaxy setting the stage for the next Avengers film in 2015. But those are for another preview on another day. Until then, keep an eye out for our weekly, monthly and seasonal previews and our daily reviews right here on Cinema365 and we’ll keep an eye out for you at the multiplex.