3100: Run and Become


One of the beautiful images from the film.

(2018) Documentary (Illumine) Ashprihanal Aalto, Shamita Achenbach-König, Yuri Trostenyuk, Shaun Martin, Gaolo, Rupantar LaRusso, Dohai König, Nirbhasa Magee, Ray “The K” Krolevicz, Jumanda Gakelbone, Sahishnu Szczesiul, Supan Tsekob, Ilgyasu Tervo, Ajari Misunaga, Isomura-san, Tess Thakara, Petra Aalto.  Directed by Sanjay Rawal

 

It is well known that physical exertion can lead to a feeling of well-being. It’s not just the feeling of accomplishment that comes from completing a particularly difficult goal, but also the physical rush of endorphins one gets from such exercises as yoga, weight lifting and running.

Some even say that running can be used as a means of spiritual enlightenment. A particular proponent of that line of thought was Sri Chinmoy, an Indian sprinter, philosopher and running guru. He helped spread the philosophy throughout the world. One of those who picked up on it and ran with it (literally) is Finnish newspaper delivery man Ashprihanal Aalto. Aalto is what is known as an ultra long distance runner – someone who runs races of extraordinary lengths. He has been a dominant force in Chinmoy’s 3100 Mile Self-Transcendence race, running it 13 times and winning it five times, setting the course record in his most recent attempt.

He is 45 now and really has no mountains left to climb when it comes to the race. However his spiritual adviser Ilgyasu Tervo counsels him to give it one last shot – soon he will not have the physical stamina to run the race in the style he is used to. He elects to go to New York for one last run around the block.

That’s literally what the race is; it’s a grueling run taking over the course of 51 days. Runners go as fast and as far as they can each day, finishing only when they reach the magic 3100 mile mark. The course is one city block in the Bronx, one half mile in length. Runners circle the block over and over again, trying to make 120 laps each day. It’s not a particularly photogenic block but the repetition supposedly helps runners reach a trance-like state where they can focus in on their spiritual side.

Many of the runners are middle-aged; most are men and all are white – at least in the 2016 race. While they come from around the world and many have converted to the faith Chinmoy espoused, there is a homogeneity about the runners in the race that doesn’t particularly make for compelling filmmaking. It’s no surprise therefore that Rawal elects to add other stories that make the connection between running and spiritualism.

For example, Native American Shaun Martin of the Navajo tribe re-creates his father’s escape from a government-mandated boarding school back to his home (both buildings no longer exist) in order to plug in to his cultural and personal heritage. Buddhist monk Ajari Misunaga mentors Isomura-san on the rite of kaihgyo which involves running around Mount Hiei in Japan for one thousand consecutive days – just under three years. The distance is just over 60 miles and is done in robes with stops to pay devotion at various places. Misunaga also casually mentions that those that fail are required to commit suicide. Self-flagellation suddenly seems a whole lot less barbaric.

We also see the plight of a tribe in the Kalahari desert who for thousands of years have fed themselves by running down their prey during the hunt. When the government of Malawi (where the tribe is located) enacts a law forbidding the process, the tribe begins to fail, unable to subsist on the meager rations they are provided but also losing tribal identity. Tribesman Gaolo elects to defy the ban with serious consequences to him if he is caught.

The three additional stories are actually in many ways more compelling than the story of the Race which is grueling as New York City suffers through a murderous heat wave and triple digit temperatures, but seems to be more of an “inner self” kind of thing that doesn’t have much connection to a larger culture, at least not the way it is presented here.

The cinematography, particularly outside of New York – i.e. the Arizona and Kalahari deserts, the cold winter landscapes of Finland and the beautiful mountain landscapes of Japan – are often breathtaking. However, there feels like there is more than a little proselytizing here which made me feel uncomfortable. And after seeing some recent NYC DOC films that are about making the world a better place, watching white people try to find spiritual harmony doesn’t feel quite like it has the same urgency or importance.

Running is inherently a selfish sport. It is done solo and even if you are on a running team at the end of the day it is always the individual versus the course. The race finale, although extraordinarily close is ultimately anti-climactic – winning is almost beside the point when the reason the race exists is right there in the title of it: self-transcendence. Improving oneself is not a bad thing by any means but this feels like it falls in line with a self-absorbed generation that is making the world an increasingly harsh place to live in.

REASONS TO GO: Some of the cinematography is beautiful.
REASONS TO STAY: The stories of the two ultra-marathoners, the tribesman and the Native American don’t really mesh well together.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a brief picture of blisters that may be a bit disturbing for the squeamish.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT:  The race was founded in 1997 by Sri Chinmoy and is currently the longest certified road race in the world..
CRITICAL MASS: As of 11/14/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 86% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Hare Krishna!
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Up and Away

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Transcendence


Johnny Depp's salary for the film is displayed behind him.

Johnny Depp’s salary for the film is displayed behind him.

(2014) Science Fiction (Warner Brothers) Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Cory Hardrict, Falk Hentschel, Josh Stewart, Luce Rains, Fernando Chien, Steven Liu, Xander Berkeley, Lukas Haas, Wallace Langham, James Burnett, Sam Quinn, Olivia Dudley. Directed by Wally Pfister

Our attitudes towards technology tend to be split down the middle. On the one hand, we appreciate the wonders of it and become addicted to our laptops, our cell phones, our microwaves and our GPS devices. We eagerly speculate as to what amazing discoveries will be a part of our daily lives ten or twenty years down the line,

On the other hand, technology terrifies us. We tremble at the thought of atomic bombs, killer drones and artificial intelligence deciding that humanity is superfluous and wiping us all out like Skynet and Judgment Day. It isn’t hard to imagine our own hubris creating the seeds of our extinction.

Will Caster (Depp) is one of the planet’s most brilliant minds, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence. He and his wife and lab partner Evelyn (Hall) are on the verge of a major breakthrough, creating a machine that  will not only think analytically but feel emotions, thus having more brainpower than the combined intelligence of every human that ever lived. Scary stuff.

A little too scary for some. A group of what I guess you’d call technoterrorists – a group of angry young people out to stop technology from taking over our lives at all costs – launch a coordinated attack on artificial intelligence labs all over the country. Decades of research is wiped out in the space of hours and the possibility that the scientists will never reach their goal looms large. Worse still, Will was shot – well, grazed – but the bullet that grazed him was coated with a radioactive isotope that will kill him in a matter of weeks. You can’t say these terrorists didn’t learn well from the KGB.

Evelyn kind of loses it. She wants to save her husband but knows his body is doomed. After reading some research from a scientist who was killed in the attack, she realizes that consciousness can be uploaded into a computer – he had done it with a rhesus monkey. With no other option, she determines to follow this course. She needs help and recruits Max (Bettany), a fellow scientist and close friend to both Will and herself.

Because this untested research would never be sanctioned in any reputable lab, particularly with FBI Agent Buchanan (Murphy) keeping a close eye on things. Their mentor, Dr. Tagger (Freeman) is unlikely to be supportive either. As Will’s body deteriorates, the attempt is made. Eventually, Will’s body dies. Did his soul?

At first, it seems the effort went to naught but a single line of text – Is Anybody There? – tells them that their experiment was a success. In fact, better than; Evelyn is convinced that everything that was the essence of what Will Caster was lives on in this machine. In a sense, she has become a modern Frankenstein.

But is this really Will? When circumstances force her to upload Will to the Internet, things begin to take a sideways step. Will manipulates bank accounts and stock, allowing Evelyn to create a kind of data fortress in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. Will has started making breakthroughs in cell regeneration, allowing those who are infirm to be healed. However, the down side is that Will’s source code is also uploaded into these recipients of his generosity, making them in essence worker bees with greatly enhanced strength and speed.

Evelyn watches this with horror despite the apparently benign intentions of the new Will machine. However, if he is making fundamental changes to the DNA of the people of this town, will he use this ability to control them? And if so, will there be any true humans left?

Depp has had a string of missteps on the big screen lately and this one, according to the box office figures, isn’t going to break that string although in terms of quality it is certainly an improvement over his last couple of films. This is intelligent sci-fi, raising questions about our increasing reliance on technology as well as how much we’re willing to give up for comfort and safety. These aren’t easy questions to answer nor do the filmmakers make much of an attempt to give you any.

This is one of Depp’s most low-key performances in ages. Caster talks in a kind of monotone, probably because he’s so busy thinking. We rarely see any emotion out of Depp and therein lies the problem; Caster is already robotic by the time he becomes a machine. The change isn’t terribly noticeable. Hall, with a Cambridge education, seems overly hysterical here in playing a rational scientist although if I’d seen the love of my life waste away after being shot by terrorists, I might be a bit hysterical too.

Only Bettany acquits himself nicely here, although Murphy and Freeman are solid in small roles. The acting here doesn’t really stand out but the special effects and set design do. There is a sleek futuristic look to the Caster compound and the digital effects, while not breakthroughs, are at least wow-inducing for the most part.

I do like the concept although the film isn’t always true to its inner logic and at the end of the day, falls just shy of being a much better film than just merely entertaining. There is a lot to digest here and while it’s no 2001: A Space Odyssey it is at least better than some of the more visceral sci-fi entries of recent years.

REASONS TO GO: Great effects. Nice concept. Keeps you guessing.

REASONS TO STAY: Misses the mark. Occasional overuse of technobabble.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some action and violence (some of it bloody), a bit of sensuality and occasional foul language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Pfister’s debut as a director. Previously he has been a renowned cinematographer working for such directors as Christopher Nolan and Kevin MacDonald.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/4/14: Rotten Tomatoes: 20% positive reviews. Metacritic: 42/100.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Lawnmower Man

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: Heaven is For Real

New Releases for the Week of April 18, 2014


Transcendence

TRANSCENDENCE

(Warner Brothers) Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser, Clifton Collins Jr., Lukas Haas. Directed by Wally Pfister

A brilliant A.I. engineer is on the verge of a game-changing breakthrough when he is shot with a radioactive bullet by members of an anti-technology group. His wife and best friend know his only chance for survival is to finish his experiment – to download his intelligence and essence into a computer. Unsure about the ethics of such an endeavor, they nonetheless proceed – and soon discover their worst fears being realized.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, promos and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, IMAX (opens Thursday)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action and violence, some bloody images, brief strong language and sensuality)

2 States

(UTV) Arjun Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Amrita Singh, Revathy. A Punjabi boy and a Tamil girl face overwhelming obstacles in trying to get their parents to allow a marriage between the two of them. This is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Chetan Bhagat.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Bears

(DisneyNature) John C. Reilly (voice). Follows two new mama bears in the rugged, majestic and often dangerous terrain of Alaska as they try to teach their cubs everything they need to know to survive – while protecting them from the many dangers of the Alaskan wilderness.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Nature Documentary

Rating: G

A Haunted House 2

(Open Road) Marlon Wayans, Gabriel Iglesias, Jaime Pressly, Essence Atkins. After exorcising the demons from his last girlfriend, a man starts fresh with his new girlfriend and her two children in a new house. Unfortunately, supernatural trouble follows him as he starts to realize that it may not be the house that’s haunted – maybe it IS him!

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

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opens Thursday)

Genre: Horror Spoof

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

Heaven is For Real

(Tri-Star) Greg Kinnear, Kelly Reilly, Margo Martindale, Thomas Haden Church. Based on actual events, this details the story of a young boy who lies near death’s door and makes a miraculous recovery. When he comes to, he claims he has been to heaven and while there are those who are skeptical, his pastor father is disturbed that his son knows things that happened before he was born – things he couldn’t possibly know, providing a challenge to his faith and his beliefs.

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

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard (opened Wednesday)

Genre: Faith-Based Drama

Rating: PG (for thematic material including some medical situations)

Le Week-End

(Music Box) Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Judith Davis. A British company, married for umpteen years, returns to the scene of the crime – their honeymoon in Paris. Trying to rekindle the romance that has been missing from their relationship, they succeed and then some as the romance of the City of Lights takes hold.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

Lotoman 003

(Panamericana) Dalisa Alegria, Fernando Carrillo, Julian Gil, Fausto Mata. This hit comedy franchise from the Dominican Republic makes it’s American debut in select theaters in the U.S.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: NR

The Lunchbox

(Sony Classics) Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nakul Vaid, Lillette Dubey.A frustrated housewife cooks lunch for her increasingly distant husband. When her lunchbox is inadvertently sent to the wrong recipient, a correspondence ensues between two lonely souls.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romance

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material and smoking)

Make Your Move

(High Top) Derek Hough, BoA, Wesley Jonathan, Will Yun Lee.Two young people from completely different worlds meet in one of New York’s hottest underground clubs and discover that they have common ground in dance.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Urban Dance

Rating: PG-13 (for language including sexual references, and brief violence)

Race Gurram

(Ficus) Shruti K. Haasan, Ravi Kishan, Prikash Raj, Allu Arjun. Two brothers who are polar opposites and constantly squabble and play increasingly spiteful pranks on one another are forced to unite when a corrupt politician wants revenge against the one brother who contested his election.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Under the Skin

(A24) Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy McWilliams, Lynsey Taylor Mackay, Dougie McConnell.  An alien masquerades as a human woman, using her amazing sexuality to snare human prey. As she spends more time on Earth however, she begins to change as she finds the complexity and joy of human life irresistible, putting her on a collision course with her own kind.

See the trailer, featurettes and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller

Rating: R (for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language)

Four-Warned: April 2014


Captain America-The Winter SoldierEvery 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. CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (1.0)
2. TRANSCENDENCE (1.2)
3. OCULUS (1.5)
4. BRICK MANSIONS (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. FRANKIE AND ALICE (1.4)
TIE. THE RAILWAY MAN (1.4)
3. THE GERMAN DOCTOR (1.5)
TIE. JOE (1.5)

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

APRIL 2, 2014

DOM HEMINGWAY (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Dramedy. After serving a 12 year prison sentence, a larger-than-life safecracker tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter while retrieving what he thinks he’s owed for serving his time and protecting his boss with his silence. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 One of the spotlight films from this year’s Florida Film Festival.
THE RETRIEVAL (Variance) Genre: Western. On the cusp of the Civil War a young slave boy is sent north by a bounty hunter to lure a wanted man back to the South. Release Strategy: New York City only (expands April 18). RATING: 1.9 Looks like a cross between 12 Years a Slave and The Unforgiven.

APRIL 3, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (Disney/Marvel) Genre: Superhero. Cap gets caught in a conspiracy that threatens SHIELD and at the center of it is someone he wouldn’t have thought of in a million years. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.0 The buzz is huge on this; could be one of the top box office performers in Marvel’s already impressive history.

APRIL 4, 2014

AFFLICTED (CBS) Genre: Horror. Two young bloggers documenting their trip of a lifetime around the world find themselves in a world of terror when a mysterious young woman infects one of them with a strange disease. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Not so sure about found footage films anymore but this one looks intriguing.
ALAN PARTRIDGE (Magnolia) Genre: Comedy. A conceited and venal broadcaster gets caught up in a hostage situation at his television station. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Steve Coogan’s legendary British character gets his own feature film and high time he did.
ALIEN ABDUCTION (IFC Midnight) Genre: Science Fiction. While vacationing in North Carolina a family encounters a terrifying phenomenon. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Reportedly based on the Brown Mountain Lights in North Carolina.
FRANKIE & ALICE (Codeblack) Genre: True Life Drama. The story of a go-go dancer in Los Angeles in the ’70s who struggles with multiple personalities. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Halle Berry delivers yet another stunning performance.
THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR: SATAN CAME TO EDEN (Zeitgeist) Genre: Documentary. A group of back-to-nature misfits from the 1930s who have emigrated to the Galapagos become embroiled in a murder investigation which remains unsolved to this day. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 An impressive story that has elements of noir and nature film; with home movies from the actual participants themselves.
GOODBYE WORLD (Goldwyn/Phase 4) Genre: Drama. Living off-the-grid proves useful when a mass cyber attack crashes civilization; however when old friends come looking for shelter and protection, things get a little bit complicated. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Does the end of technology mean the end of the world?
IN THE BLOOD (Anchor Bay) Genre: Action. When a newlywed’s husband is kidnapped on their honeymoon, she sets out to find him – by any means necessary. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’m always down for Gina Carano.
ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR (Warner Brothers) Genre: Nature Documentary. On one of the world’s most remote islands these amazing creatures are being protected by a group of dedicated volunteers. Release Strategy: Wide (IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.8 Some of the most adorable creatures you will ever see.
JINN (Freestyle) Genre: Supernatural Horror. A race older than men decide to take the world back they once ruled. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Looks effects-heavy; could be pretty good if it isn’t the very best moments in the trailer.
NYMPHOMANIAC VOLUME 2 (Magnolia) Genre: Drama. Follows up the first volume with the story of the title character’s adult life and descent into darkness. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 The films of Lars van Trier do absolutely nothing for me; I’ll be giving this and its companion a miss.
THE PLAYERS (Weinstein) Genre: Comedy. A series of short films from a diverse group of French filmmakers set around the theme of infidelity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Intriguing considering Jean Dujardin is one of the stars – and one of the directors.
UNDER THE SKIN (A24) Genre: Science Fiction. After spending time on Earth, an alien who was initially hostile comes to discover the better angels of human nature. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Some reviewers have compared this to the work of Stanley Kubrick which depending on your point of view is either damning or high praise.
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN (Radius) Genre: Documentary. Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris turns his sights on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.8 A chilling look at a political figure who even today remains highly polarizing.
WATERMARK (eOne) Genre: Documentary. Stories from around the world documenting the human relationship with – and need for – water. Release Strategy: New York City (opens in Los Angeles April 18). RATING: 2.3 In a time where water is becoming an even more crucial resource than petroleum, it is absolutely critical we understand its effect on our everyday life.

APRIL 11, 2014

A FRAGILE TRUST: PLAGIARISM, POWER AND JAYSON BLAIR AT THE NEW YORK TIMES (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. The story of Blair, the notorious plagiarist that became a parable for the problems with modern journalism: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 A cautionary tale worth exploring, but that overly dramatic unwieldy title has GOT to go.
CUBAN FURY (eOne) Genre: Comedy. A one-time British salsa champion who lost it all in a bullying incident must once again take up his snappy outfit to impress the woman who makes his heart beat faster. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 It’s got Nick Frost in it; do you really need to know anything else?
DRAFT DAY (Summit) Genre: Sports Dramedy. The embattled GM of the Cleveland Browns with first pick in the upcoming NFL draft must use all his wiles to make the best move for the team. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 The Kevin Costner renaissance continues.
HANK AND ASHA (FilmRise) Genre: Romantic Comedy. An Indian woman living in Prague and a lonely New Yorker take up a video correspondence. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Maybe the first romantic comedy that is authentically 21st century in nature.
HATESHIP LOVESHIP (IFC) Genre: Romance. A trio of tales based on short stories by the great Alice Munro. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Kristen Wiig and Hailee Steinfeld take on dramatic roles.
JOE (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Drama. While trying to get his life back on the straight and narrow, an ex-con befriends a young boy and becomes his mentor, enraging the boy’s abusive father. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Nicolas Cage may be making a return to serious acting; check it out at the upcoming Florida Film Festival.
KOCHADAIIYAAN (Eros International) Genre: Animated Feature. Good versus evil take center stage in an epic battle of love and betrayal in ancient India. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 This Indian motion capture film looks very much like a videogame from ten years ago.
OCULUS (Relativity) Genre: Horror. Ten years after being convicted of the brutal murder of his parents as a teenage boy, he is released into the custody of his sister who is determined to prove his innocence – and that the true culprit is a cursed mirror. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 The trailer looks pretty nifty and I love effects-driven horror like this.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS (Weinstein) Genre: Crime Comedy. Two mismatched police detectives investigate the murder of the wife of a French business mogul. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Unfortunately, the trailer isn’t available for viewing at this time and given that this is being released by Weinstein, I’d be frankly shocked if this was released this spring.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (Sony Classics) Genre: Horror. Ageless beings watch as the world of humans spirals out of control around them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Jim Jarmusch takes on vampires? Color me intrigued…
PERFECT SISTERS (Gravitas) Genre: Thriller. Two sisters, facing their mother moving them in with her abusive boyfriend, plot her murder with classmates – and compulsively confess about it to their friends. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 Based on the Toronto “Bathtub Girls” case; stars Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley are perfect as the sisters.
THE RAILWAY MAN (Weinstein) Genre: True Life Drama. During World War II, a British POW in a Japanese camp is tormented while building a railway; years later he discovers his chief tormentor is still alive and travels to Asia to confront him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 A true story about redemption and forgiveness, star Colin Firth looks in the trailer like he’s never been better.
RIO 2 (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. Blu, Jewel and their kids head into the Amazon to see if the rumors of other blue macaws like themselves are still there. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.8 The first one had its moments but it didn’t impress me particularly; not sure that this will be any better.

APRIL 16, 2014

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (TriStar) Genre: Drama. After a near-death experience, a little boy starts telling people he saw heaven and has information he couldn’t possibly no, causing a crisis of faith for his pastor father. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.2 Faith-based dramas have been scoring at the box office so far this year; this is one I actually might see.
VISIONS OF MARY FRANK (Self-Released) Genre: Documentary. This artist, who began as a subject of photographers in the 1950s, has become an important artist who defies categorization over a 50 year career. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Sounds intriguing but found no trailers anywhere online.

APRIL 18, 2014

13 SINS (Radius) Genre: Horror. Cryptic phone calls entice a down on his luck salesman to perform 13 tasks, each more sinister and disturbing than the last. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Anyone can be turned into a monster, given the right level of desperation.
A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 (Open Road) Genre: Horror Spoof. The exorcist from the first film gets a new start, a new girlfriend and new hauntings. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Nifty trailer doesn’t disguise the fact that this genre has really run its course.
AUTHORS ANONYMOUS (Screen Media) Genre: Comedy. A support group of unpublished authors has to deal with the overnight success of one of their number. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 One of Dennis Farina’s last roles; sadly the trailer doesn’t make the movie look worth his talents.
BANKSTAS (Main Street) Genre: Comedy. Recently graduated from college, a business major gets a job at a major financial firm only to discover the corruption there; along with a crusading lawyer he sets out to expose the crooked boss. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Haven’t been able to find a trailer for this – but sounds kinda cheesy.
BEARS (DisneyNature) Genre: Nature Documentary. Two mother bears try to prepare their cubs to make it on their own in the wild over the course of a single year. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.3 The DisneyNature series has been uniformly solid.
FADING GIGOLO (Millennium) Genre: Comedy. To help his cash-challenged friend a man decides to become a professional gigolo with his friend acting as his pimp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 John Turturro as the gigolo and Woody Allen as the pimp? I’m listening...
THE FINAL MEMBER (Drafthouse) Genre: Documentary. The only museum in the world devoted to the penis needs one more species to complete its collection – a human – but the competition to be the member-donating member is more complex than it would seem at first glance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Too crazy to be anything but true; one of this year’s selections at the Florida Film Festival.
KID CANNABIS (Well Go USA) Genre: Crime Drama. A high school dropout and his 27-year-old friend turn to smuggling marijuana across the border into Canada with life-altering results. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Think of Savages but as a teen coming of age movie.
MAKE YOUR MOVE (High Top) Genre: Urban Dance. Two young people from different worlds find common ground at New York’s hottest underground club through dance. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Could the plot be any more cliche for this sort of film?
PROXY (IFC Midnight) Genre: Thriller. After meeting through a support group for women who have survived violent assaults, two women bond but soon begin to lose their grips on reality. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.3 Looks sufficiently edge-of-your-seat for my purposes.
SMALL TIME (Anchor Bay) Genre: Drama. A used car salesman comes to a crossroad in his life when his son decides to follow in his footsteps – and may be a little bit too good at the job. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Actually doesn’t look too bad with Christopher Meloni and Dean Morris up front.
TASTING MENU (Magnolia) Genre: Dramedy. After waiting a year for their table at the world’s most famous restaurant, a couple that has split up since making their reservation decide to both go on this last date. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks like a foodie’s fantasy – and I for one would love to live it!
TRAILER PARK BOYS 3: DON’T LEGALIZE IT (eOne) Genre: Stoner Comedy. Three Canadian trailer dwellers try to stop the Canadian government from legalizing pot since that might threaten their lucrative illegal business. Release Strategy: Canada only. RATING: 3.9 Dumb stoner comedy done Canadian smile and a continuation of a hugely popular Canadian TV show.
TRANSCENDENCE (Warner Brothers) Genre: Science Fiction. When a brilliant AI researcher is shot, his wife and best friend transfer his intelligence into the machine he was working on – which might well spell the end of the human race. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.2 One of those cautionary technology tales with Johnny Depp in the lead.

APRIL 23, 2014

BICYCLING WITH MOLIERE (Strand) Genre: Comedy. A French soap opera star trying to rehabilitate his career by performing Moliere’s The Misanthrope on the Paris stage attempts to recruit a curmudgeonly expert on Moliere to play opposite him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 As with most French comedies it looks charming.

APRIL 25, 2014

BLUE RUIN (Radius) Genre: Thriller. An act of vengeance gone awry leads to a fierce and bloody fight to protect an outsider’s adopted family. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Has elements of Southern Gothic to it that I find quite appetizing.
BRICK MANSIONS (Relativity) Genre: Action. A cop and a con combine to stop a plot from Detroit’s worst ghetto to launch missiles into the rest of the city. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Based on Luc Besson’s District B-13 is one of star Paul Walker’s last films.
FOR NO GOOD REASON (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. The life and work of Ralph Steadman whose art illustrated books by Hunter S. Thompson and William F. Burroughs is examined by Steadman’s friend Johnny Depp. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 Intriguing subject; will be playing at this year’s Florida Film Festival.
THE GERMAN DOCTOR (Goldwyn) Genre: Thriller. An Argentine family is unaware that the doctor they are harboring is Josef Mengele. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Looks absolutely horrifying; I can’t wait to see it.
THE GIRL AND DEATH (Shadow Distribution) Genre: Romance. A doomed love between a prostitute and a rising young medical student changes his life for over 50 years. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles May 23). RATING: 2.6 Not quite sure what to make of this yet; looks grand and yet I didn’t connect with it on first glance.
LAST PASSENGER (Cohen Media Group) Genre: Thriller. On their way home on the last train from London, a single dad and his son discover the train has been taken over by a sociopath who means to kill everyone on board. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 The trailer is delightfully action-packed; hopefully we’ll get a chance to check it out.
LOCKE (A24) Genre: Drama. A man with the perfect life must risk it all after receiving a mysterious phone call. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Tom Hardy once again shows that he is a leading man of the highest caliber in this different-looking drama.
THE MACHINE (XLRator) Genre: Science Fiction. Two programmers create a self-aware artificial intelligence which is then stolen by the government and turned into a killing machine. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 With Caity Lotz from Arrow in the cast this is one to keep an eye out for.
THE OTHER WOMAN (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. A scumbag’s wife and mistress get together with the scumbag’s new mistress to plot their revenge. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 I’m generally not a huge Cameron Diaz fan but this one looks pretty funny.
THE QUIET ONES (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. An attempt by students to artificially create a poltergeist leads to the unleashing of a devastating power. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 The trailer reminded me of one of my favorite horror films of all time, The Legend of Hell House.
WALKING WITH THE ENEMY (Liberty) Genre: War Drama. In the waning days of World War II a young Jew steals of Nazi officer’s uniform and uses it to disrupt their activities. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Another war drama based on a true story; can we get enough of them?
YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. A year in the life of a 17-year-old French girl turns out to be pivotal as she makes choices that will affect the rest of her life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 The latest from master French director Francois Ozon.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Dom Hemingway, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Draft Day, Joe, Oculus, Rio 2, Heaven is for Real, Bears, The Final Member, Transcendence, Brick Mansions, For No Good Reason, The Other Woman, The Quiet Ones

2014 Preview


2014 PreviewOnce again the box office pulled in record numbers for the second consecutive year as 2013 rolled in with a bang and out with one as well. While the quality of the summer blockbusters was disappointing, there were enough good movies out there to keep the ticket takers busy. This year was also the end of an era as Blockbuster shut the doors on the last of their video stores, confirming that streaming had become the home video delivery method of choice. While cable and satellite continued to do strong numbers, that was mainly due to original programming and less to Hollywood blockbusters.

This year Marvel continued to dominate with big numbers for Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. DC also finally got a non-Batman hit as Man of Steel did big enough numbers to warrant a sequel. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire looks to surpass the original’s box office frenzy and has become the newest major franchise for Hollywood to plant their flag in. Despicable Me 2 surprisingly became the highest grossing animated feature of the year, although Frozen may well surpass its total eventually but probably not until we’re into 2014 if it does at all. Alphonso Cuaron’s Gravity was also a surprise hit, although those who saw it were not surprised at all.

While most fanboys and studio execs are rubbing their hands in anticipation of 2015, that doesn’t mean that 2014 will be without some movies to look forward to. As always, Cinema365 will do our level best to see as many of the films that come to Orlando as our schedule will permit. We’ll also be reconfirming our commitment to cover the Florida Film Festival as completely as we’re able – the 2013 edition provided movies that were on independent release schedules for much of the rest of the year and popped up theatrically throughout 2013. We’ll also try to catch movies we’ve missed in the theaters on DVD, although our stated goal of one review every day falls under the category of best intentions.

Before we get to the good stuff, the usual words of warning. While we do our best to give you the most accurate information regarding release dates, Hollywood – like any good woman – frequently changes their mind. Literally within a few weeks of this being posted there will have already been several changes and the farther out in the preview the film appears, the more likely it is to have had its release date changed. Look back at the end of 2014 at the calendar here and you’re not likely to recognize it. Check our weekly preview for more accurate information about what is coming out in the Orlando area (which includes all wide releases) and our monthly Four-Warned feature for more detailed information about independent releases.

So let’s fire up the Delorean and take a trip into 2014. Buckle your seat belts – it’s likely to be an amazing ride!

JANUARY

The year begins with the holiday holdovers dominating the box office and the multiplex screens, although some films that have had Oscar-qualifying runs in December see wide release in January. Most of the rest are cast-offs and low-budget horror movies that the studios generally have low expectations for. However, there are generally a few movies (particularly towards the end of the month) that are known to be a cut above, either in quality or box office appeal. This year we’ll see an offshoot of a popular found footage horror franchise and a graphic novel interpretation of a classic literary character.

I, FrankensteinDON’T MISS

I, FRANKENSTEIN
RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2013
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Aaron Eckhart, Bill Nighy, Yvonne Strahovsky, Miranda Otto, Jai Courtney, Socratis Otto, Caitlin Stasey, Mahesh Jadu.
STORY: A war has erupted between the demonic and the stone gargoyles who are vigilant over the affairs of men. Caught in the middle is a creature whose immortality is at the crux of the struggle and could tip the balance either one way or the other. The monster in question: none other than the legendary creation of Frankenstein.
PROSPECTS: The Underworld movies have done pretty well in the January slot and the involvement of the producers and creators of that franchise are likely to show stylistically in the movie. Fans of big effects-driven franchises will also likely be casting their eyes about for something new as the latest installments of The Hobbit and The Hunger Games will have about run their course by the time this comes out.
OBSTACLES: Eckhart really hasn’t had a breakout hit movie of his own yet to establish that he can shoulder a franchise on his shoulders, although he did well in The Dark Knight. The Frankenstein monster hasn’t really been the subject of a box office hit in nearly 70 years.
FACTOID: The movie was originally scheduled for release in August but Lionsgate moved it out to January to allow work on the extensive CGI to be completed properly.

SHOULD SEE

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
RELEASE DATE: January 3, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Andrew Jacobs, Molly Ephraim, Richard Cabral, Carlos Pratts, Eddie J. Fernandez, Jorge Diaz, David Fernandez Jr., Kimberly Ables Jindra
STORY: A Latino family faces a demonic incursion with videocameras as they attempt to document the strange events happening to them.
PROSPECTS: The name recognition of the franchise should bring people into the theaters, enough to recoup the modest production costs quickly. That there wasn’t an installment of the main franchise this past Halloween may whet the appetites of devotees even further.
OBSTACLES: A complete offshoot of the original mythology of the series may be off-putting to some fans.
FACTOID: The lost tapes from Paranormal Activity 3 act as a linking device with this film.

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT
RELEASE DATE: January 17, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, Peter Andersson, David Paymer, Colm Feore, Nonso Anozie, Gemma Chan
STORY: A young CIA analyst named Jack Ryan discovers a monstrous plot by a Russian terrorist to subvert the Western financial markets and throw the economies of the West into chaos.
PROSPECTS: The Tom Clancy series has enjoyed a great deal of success over the years and is popular with older audiences who tend to stay away from the multiplex in the summer.
OBSTACLES: This is a complete reboot of the film series with all-new actors in every role. This is the first Jack Ryan film in 11 years.
FACTOID: This is the first film in the franchise not to be based on a specific book written by Tom Clancy.

MIGHT SURPRISE

GIMME SHELTER
RELEASE DATE: January 24, 2014
STUDIO: Roadside Attractions
STARRING: Vanessa Hudgens, Rosario Dawson, Brendan Fraser, James Earl Jones, Ann Dowd, Dascha Polanco, Stephanie Szostak
STORY: A young homeless pregnant teen finds her way into a suburban shelter where she finds comfort, empowerment and a connection with her fellow residents. This enables her to find leadership capabilities and maturity that she never knew she had in her.
PROSPECTS: A strong cast and a fair amount of buzz make this a possible indie breakout hit in a month where there are few prospects for such.
OBSTACLES: May appeal more to the female filmgoer than the male. Has the star power but the subject matter may keep audiences away.
FACTOID: Has nothing to do with the Rolling Stones song or concert film of the same name.

ALSO

January 1, 2014

THE RAILWAY MAN (Weinstein) is based on a true story of a British Army officer who is tormented in a prisoner of war camp during World War II by a Japanese soldier. Decades after the war he discovers that soldier is still alive and sets out to confront him, but that confrontation doesn’t go the way he imagined it would.

January 3, 2014

OPEN GRAVE (Tribeca) stars Sharlto Copley as a man who wakes up in a pit full of dead bodies with no memory of how he got there. Fleeing to a nearby farmhouse, he discovers it is inhabited by others who have had exactly the same experience. As they try to discover what has happened to them, they find that there is an even greater threat that is hungrier than they could possibly imagine. Opening in limited release.

January 10, 2014

THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (Summit) is the first of two films on the mythological Greek hero. This one stars Kellan Lutz and is directed by Renny Harlin and is more of an origin story of the iconic legend.. HER (Warner Brothers) features Joaquin Phoenix as a lonely socially awkward man in the near future who develops a passion for his personalized operating system. Directed by Spike Jonze so you know it’s off-beat. LONE SURVIVOR (Universal) is based on a true story of four Navy SEALs who go on a mission to Afghanistan and wind up ambushed. Their mutual sacrifice for one another and their bravery under fire show how truly amazing our men and women in uniform are. Mark Wahlberg stars.

January 15, 2014

GENERATION WAR (Music Box) opens in limited release and explores five different people in Nazi Germany at the height of the Second World War. There are those full of patriotic fervor, those living in terror as Jews, those who have ambitions of stardom and those who are swept up in the tides of history.

January 17, 2014

In DEVIL’S DUE (20th Century Fox), a new husband obsessively documents his wife’s pregnancy but as the days count down to her due date, her actions become more and more disturbing and he soon realizes that sinister forces may well be at work. NUT JOB (Open Road) is an animated feature about an ambitious squirrel who after inadvertently destroying the winter food supply of his fellow squirrels seizes upon an idea to rob a nut store. In RIDE ALONG (Universal) a man who wants to marry the sister of a cop and aspires to be one himself must go on a ride along with his prospective brother-in-law to prove his worth – in the most dangerous neighborhoods of Atlanta. Kevin Hart and Ice Cube star in this comedy. JAMESY BOY (Phase 4/XLRator) which opens in limited release concerns a young street kid who ends up in jail. There he meets a convicted murderer who becomes his protector and mentor, turning his life around in the most unexpected way.

January 31, 2014

LABOR DAY (Paramount) is about a reclusive mother and her son, reeling from tragedy. Into their lives comes an escaped convict who turns out to be not what he seems. Originally coerced into harboring him, they find that in the brief span of a holiday weekend he is changing their lives forever. In THAT AWKWARD MOMENT (Focus) three friends in a show of support for one who’s been heartbroken determine to give up dating. However that turns out to be far more easier said than done.

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.

THE GANGSTER SQUAD (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60 Million. Domestic Gross: $46.0M Total: $105.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE LAST STAND (Lionsgate) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $12.1M Total: $48.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount/MGM) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $55.7M Total: $225.7M Verdict: Hit.
JOHN DIES AT THE END (Magnolia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $141,951 Total: $141,951 Verdict: Probably Lost Money.
MAMA (Universal) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $71.6M Total: $146.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $34.3M Total: $39.1M Verdict: Likely Broke Even.
BROKEN CITY (20th Century Fox) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $19.7M Total: $19.7M Verdict: Flop.
MOVIE 43 (Relativity) Budget: $6M. Domestic Gross: $8.8M Total: $29.9 Verdict: Hit.
PARKER (FilmDistrict) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $17.6M Total: $42.2 Verdict: Lost Money.
A HAUNTED HOUSE (Open Road) Budget: $2.5M. Domestic Gross: $40.0M Total: $59.9 Verdict: Hit.

FEBRUARY

After a first month of the year that is generally quiet, a few loud noises begin to emerge as a long weekend and the prospect of Valentine’s Day (this year falling on a Friday) make the studios start to put out some of their better releases. This year we can expect a reboot of an 80s classic, a Liam Neeson action movie, a franchise wanna-be on a hit young adult book series (where have we heard that before?), an epic disaster movie and a delayed but anticipated movie that was thought to be a leading Oscar contender this past year.

PompeiiCAN’T MISS

POMPEII
RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2014
STUDIO: TriStar
STARRING: Kit Harrington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Emily Browning, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Paz Vega, Jessica Lewis, Jared Harris, Kiefer Sutherland
STORY: A slave turned gladiator falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant who is betrothed to a corrupt senator of Rome in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius whose eruption will wipe Pompeii from the map.
PROSPECTS: Harrington is an up-and-comer who impressed on Game of Thrones. Disaster movies always tend to pique the movie-going audience’s interest and swords and sandals movies are hot this year.
OBSTACLES: In addition to this there are two Hercules movies and a 300 sequel so some may wait for the two upcoming S&S entries to come out. Harrington is an unproven box office commodity.
FACTOID: The teaser trailer for the movie was released six months before the release date and on co-star Carrie-Anne Moss’ birthday.

SHOULD SEE

THE MONUMENTS MEN
RELEASE DATE: February 7, 2014
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville
STORY: Near the end of World War II a small group of art historians, architects and artists attempt to save Europe’s great works of art from being destroyed by the Nazis. Based on a true story.
PROSPECTS: Definitely has the star power to bring in some decent box office numbers. Damon has already done a successful movie set during the war in Saving Private Ryan.
OBSTACLES: Sad to say that general audiences might not care about saving art. Was originally scheduled for a Holiday release but pushed out to February which might lead one to wonder whether the studio has any confidence in it.
FACTOID: Daniel Craig was originally cast in the Matt Damon role but had to bow out due to scheduling conflicts.

ROBOCOP
RELEASE DATE: February 12, 2014
STUDIO: MGM/Columbia
STARRING: Joel Kinnaman, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jay Baruchel, Jennifer Ehle
STORY: When a Detroit cop is critically injured in the line of duty, a robotics corporation seizes the opportunity to save his life and add some modifications. With new abilities, he has the ability to sweep crime from the streets but is he more machine than man?
PROSPECTS: A remake of a popular 1987 movie, the premise is even more timely given the drone technology that has become a recent controversy. Robot movies tend to do well these days.
OBSTACLES: What worked in 1987 may not necessarily work in 2014. Kinnaman is an unknown quantity as a lead actor.
FACTOID: Miguel Ferrer appears in both movies although in different roles.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE WIND RISES
RELEASE DATE: February 28, 2014
STUDIO: Touchstone
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Mandy Patinkin, Stanley Tucci, William H. Macy
STORY: Jiro dreams of flying but his nearsightedness rules out being a pilot. Instead he becomes an engineer and designs incredible planes.
PROSPECTS: The latest and last film from the legendary anime director Hayao Miyazaki. Considered a favorite to win an animated feature Oscar at the next Oscar ceremony.
OBSTACLES: Anime has not yet found a large general audience in America.
FACTOID: Most of the sound effects were created with human voices.

ALSO

February 7, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE (Warner Brothers) brings the play toy, long a staple of direct-to-video animation, to the big screen with classic characters from the playset, ONE CHANCE (Weinstein) which opens in limited release is the unlikely story of opera singer Paul Potts who went from being an unknown shop assistant to a national sensation in the UK after winning the TV show Britain’s Got Talent.

February 14, 2014

ABOUT LAST NIGHT (Screen Gems) is an updated version of the classic 80s romantic comedy. Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy and Regina Hall star. ENDLESS LOVE (Universal) is not an updated version of the classic 70s romantic adventure. Instead, it’s the story of a beautiful young woman from a wealthy family who falls in love with a working stiff against the wishes of her father who tries everything in his power to keep the two separated. Good luck with that. VAMPIRE ACADEMY (Weinstein) is based on the bestselling young adult book series about a vampire princess and her human protector in an exclusive private school for bloodsuckers. Shouldn’t this be on the CW? WINTER’S TALE (Warner Brothers) stars Colin Farrell and Jennifer Connelly in a story of an ageless man who spans generations in New York City and the star-crossed love he holds for a desperately sick young woman.

February 21, 2014

3 DAYS TO KILL (Relativity) features Kevin Costner as a brilliant spy and assassin who yearns to spend more time with his family but must complete one last assignment before retiring – which unfortunately coincides with his promise to watch his teenage daughter while his wife is out of town. IN SECRET (Roadside Attractions) is the latest version of the Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin to hit movie theaters. A sexually repressed housewife embarks on an illicit affair that has far-reaching and tragic consequences. An all star cast headlines this limited release.

February 28, 2014

In NON-STOP (Universal) an Air Marshal tries to foil an extortionist’s plot on board a Transatlantic flight only to discover that he himself is being framed for the crime. Liam Neeson stars. SON OF GOD (20th Century Fox) comes from The Bible producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett and covers the life of Jesus Christ. WELCOME TO YESTERDAY (Paramount) is a found footage thriller about some teens who discover a time machine. Their innocent messing around will lead to catastrophic consequences. Damn kids!

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (20th Century Fox) Budget: $92 Million. Domestic Gross: $67.4M Total: $304.7M Verdict: Hit.
IDENTITY THIEF (Universal) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $134.5M Total: $174.0M Verdict: Blockbuster.
BULLET TO THE HEAD (Warner Brothers) Budget: $55M. Domestic Gross: $9.5M Total: $9.5M Verdict: Major Flop.
NO (Sony Classics) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $2.3M Total: $2.3M Verdict: Probably Made Money.
WARM BODIES (Summit) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $66.4M Total: $117.0M Verdict: Hit.
ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH (Weinstein) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $57.9M Total: $71.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
SNITCH (Summit) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $42.9M Total: $42.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
DARK SKIES (Dimension) Budget: $3,5M. Domestic Gross: $17.4M Total: $26.4M Verdict: Hit.
SAFE HAVEN (Relativity) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $71.4M Total: $71.4M Verdict: Lost Money.
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $19.5M Total: $60.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
SIDE EFFECTS (Open Road) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $32.2M Total: $32.2M Verdict: Lost Money.

MARCH

As we hop into spring the studios hope that audiences will find films worth hopping into theaters over. There are some impressive offerings this year including the big screen debut of a beloved small screen cartoon, a big budget videogame adaptation, the sequel to a Frank Miller classic graphic novel, a Biblical epic and a young adult science fiction franchise kicking off.

DivergentCAN’T MISS

DIVERGENT
RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2014
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer, Maggie Q, Zoe Kravitz, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney
STORY: In a future where people are divided into factions by their personality traits, a courageous young woman who doesn’t fit into any single faction threatens the entire order of things. She meets up with an underground movement and starts up a revolution against insurmountable odds.
PROSPECTS: Has many of the elements that made the Hunger Games series a major success – a popular book series, an up-and-coming young actress, a plucky heroine and a dystopian future. Could well be the next big film franchise.
OBSTACLES: So many young adult book series don’t translate into box office numbers. Last year’s The Host should be a warning to filmmakers who don’t believe that.
FACTOID: Woodley and Ansel Elgort played sister and brother here. In The Fault in Our Stars scheduled to come out later in 2014 they’ll play girlfriend and boyfriend.

SHOULD SEE

NOAH
RELEASE DATE: March 28, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Marton Csokas
STORY: A devout man is chosen by God to build an ark that will save his family and the animals on the Earth before an apocalyptic flood destroys everything.
PROSPECTS: Biblical epics are coming back into style as Christian audiences are exerting more clout at the box office.
OBSTACLES: Not sure how much director Darren Aronofsky will play to religious audiences.
FACTOID: Crowe and Connelly played husband and wife previously in A Beautiful Mind.

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Ty Burrell, Ariel Winter, Allison Janney, Max Charles, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann, Stanley Tucci, Patrick Warburton, Lake Bell
STORY: A precocious talking dog invents a time machine which his boy promptly takes out on a joyride to impress his friend, causing a hole to rip in time. Mr. Peabody will have to fix the damage or risk the entire universe vanishing into the hole.
PROSPECTS: Parents will remember fondly the Jay Ward cartoon from the ’60s. Their kids will only see the talking dog.
OBSTACLES: Kids who are less familiar with the classic cartoon may be less excited to see this. The 3D animation might put off purists.
FACTOID: Robert Downey Jr. was considered for the voice of Mr. Peabody.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING : Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Rodrigo Santoro, Hans Matheson, Jack O’Connell, Callan Mulvey
STORY: After his victory at Thermopylae, King-turned-God Xerxes turns loose his vengeance-crazed admiral Artemesia on the Athenians. The odds overwhelming against the Greeks, General Themistocles devises a bold plan.
PROSPECTS: 300 was a game-changer and a box office blockbuster. Although Zach Snyder isn’t directing he is producing and Frank Miller will be involved again as well.
OBSTACLES: Eight years have passed since 300 was released and there’s no telling if audiences are all that eager to see the sequel at this point.
FACTOID: Gym Jones who trained the actors who played Spartans in the first film had the same function for the sequel.

NEED FOR SPEED
RELEASE DATE: March 14, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING: Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Dominic Cooper, Ramon Rodriguez, Rami Malek, Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Michael Keaton, Dakota Johnson
STORY: An underground race driver set up and jailed for manslaughter is released from prison, intent on clearing his name but more importantly getting revenge.
PROSPECTS: Based on a hit videogame franchise.
OBSTACLES: Based on a hit videogame franchise.
FACTOID: The drive-in theater depicted in the film is a real working drive-in movie theater in Georgia, one of only four left in the state.

MIGHT SURPRISE

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
RELEASE DATE: March 7, 2014
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Matthieu Almaric, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray
STORY: The world’s best concierge takes a mere lobby boy under his wing amidst the scandal of a stolen painting in pre-War central Europe.
PROSPECTS: Wes Anderson’s last film, Moonrise Kingdom, was a critical and commercial hit.
OBSTACLES: Wes Anderson is also a very acquired taste.
FACTOID: This marks the seventh occasion Bill Murray has been cast in a Wes Anderson film.

ALSO

March 7, 2014

In GRAND PIANO (Magnet) Elijah Wood plays a concert pianist who hasn’t performed for years due to acute stage fright. Making his first concert appearance since the onset of his illness, he finds himself literally in the sights of a crazed sniper who will kill him at the first wrong note. Talk about a critic! HAUNT (IFC Midnight) is a haunted house movie with a twist; the sexual awakening of the teenage son of the family living there triggers the opening of an alternate dimension. Pretty much how it works in real life, right? Both of these horror flicks are opening in limited release and VOD.

March 14, 2014

TYLER PERRY’S SINGLE MOMS CLUB (Lionsgate) finds a group of single moms from all walks of life uniting after a disturbing incident at their children’s school. Perry headlines a star-studded cast. GRACE OF MONACO (Weinstein) features Nicole Kidman in the title role of the beautiful actress who became the fairy tale princess of a dashing young heir to the throne of Monaco, but behind the scenes all is not necessarily a happily ever after. VERONICA MARS (Warner Brothers) brings the cult hit TV show to the big screen in limited release. Famously the recipient of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, the new film finds Veronica in law school and still up to her detective tricks. Kristen Bell and most of the rest of the original cast returns.

March 21, 2014

NYMPHOMANIAC PART ONE (Magnolia) is the first part of Lars von Trier’s latest film (opening in limited release) about a self-diagnosed nymphomaniac discovered by a bachelor badly beaten on his doorstep. As he nurses her back to health she recounts her erotic escapades. Part Two opens on April 18th. MUPPETS MOST WANTED (Disney) finds Kermit the Frog mistaken for a world famous criminal and only his fellow Muppets will be able to clear his name. He’s clearly in big trouble. In STRETCH (Universal) a limo driver trying to pay off a big debt gets a stroke of luck – a reclusive billionaire in the back of his car. However the rich man’s somewhat bizarre tastes may turn this savior fare into a final nightmare. A BIRDER’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING (Screen Media) stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as an obsessive 15-year-old birdwatcher who believes he’s found the discovery of a lifetime. Eager to cement his place in birding history, he runs away on the eve of his father’s remarriage to seal the deal. Opens in limited release.

March 28, 2014

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 (Open Road) is the second round of the Marlon Wayans-pended horror spoof. CESAR CHAVEZ (Pantelion) chronicles the early years of the legendary labor leader’s career organizing the largely Latino farm workers of California. Michael Pena stars in the title role. In limited release is THE RAID 2 (Sony Classics) which picks up where the hit Indonesian action film left off with supercop Rama going undercover in one of Jakarta’s most notorious criminal gangs.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL (Disney) Budget: $215 Million. Domestic Gross: $234.9M Total: $493.3M Verdict: Made Money.
THE CROODS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $187.2M Total: $587.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $122.5M Total: $375.7M Verdict: Hit.
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (New Line) Budget: $195M. Domestic Gross: $65.2M Total: $197.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE HOST (Open Road) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $26.6M Total: $48.2 Verdict: Lost Money.
STOKER (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $1.7M Total: $12.1 Verdict: Lost Money.
TYLER PERRY’S TEMPTATION: CONFESSIONS OF A MARRIAGE COUNSELOR (Lionsgate) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $52.0M Total: $53.1M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN (FilmDistrict) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $98.9M Total: $161.0M Verdict: Made Money.
THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $22.5M Total: $22.5M Verdict: Flop.
ADMISSION (Focus) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $18.0M Total: $18.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Focus) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $21.4M Total: $35.5M Verdict: Made Money.
21 AND OVER (Relativity) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $25.7M Total: $45.6M Verdict: Hit.
DEAD MAN DOWN (FilmDistrict) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $11.0M Total: $18.1M Verdict: Flop.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (CBS) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $15.2M Total: $15.2M Verdict: Hit.

APRIL

As the weather warms up and the rebirth of spring paves the way for the advent of summer, Hollywood begins to allow some early blockbusters to lead the charge. Marvel starts out early this year with the third film in their Phase II film slate and Johnny Depp stars in a thriller about artificial intelligence. Also look for the latest DisneyNature film and the sequel to a hit animated feature.

Captain America: The Winter SoldierCAN’T MISS

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
RELEASE DATE: April 4, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones
STORY: Trying to adjust to life in the modern world, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America finds himself facing a shadowy enemy in Washington DC who has set out to destroy SHIELD and with it, the United States and discovers that a familiar face is now a foe.
PROSPECTS: The Marvel cinematic universe train shows no signs of slowing down. Captain America: The First Avenger was one of the best movies of the franchise thus far.
OBSTACLES: The Russo Brothers have replaced Joe Johnston as director. Part of the appeal of the first movie was how well it got the period right; now we’ll see Cap in an entirely modern venue.
FACTOID: A deleted scene from The Avengers in which Cap finds out the fates of Peggy Carter and his commando team has been included here.

SHOULD SEE

RIO 2
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, will.i.am, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Jamie Foxx, Kristin Chenoweth, Andy Garcia
STORY: Blu, Jewel and their three kids are torn from their beloved Rio de Janeiro into the wilds of the Amazon rainforest and must learn to cope with the most terrifying life form of all – the father-in-law.
PROSPECTS: The original Rio was one of Fox’s most popular animated films, particularly among Latinos which is recently proving to be a moviegoing force. Not a lot of competition in theaters for family films.
OBSTACLES: Lacks the marketing support found for Disney and DreamWorks animated films.
FACTOID: The species of Blu and Jewel is based on the Spix’s Macaw which is believed to be extinct in the wild and of which less than 100 are known to exist in captivity, although Brazilian authorities have initiated an aggressive breeding program in hopes of bringing the species back from the brink of extinction.

TRANSCENDENCE
RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Morgan Freeman, Cole Hauser, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins Jr.
STORY: A scientist eager to take the next leap forward in artificial intelligence is forced by circumstances to have his own personality placed in a computer with potentially devastating results.
PROSPECTS: Depp provides star power and there are some parallels to the first Iron Man film which might resonate with fans.
OBSTACLES: These sorts of “thinking person” science fiction films have not tended to do well at the box office and there is an unusual amount of competition this month.
FACTOID: This is the directing debut of Wally Pfister, cinematographer for (among others) most of Christopher Nolan’s films.

SABOTAGE
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2014
STUDIO: Open Road
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Olivia Williams, Mireille Enos, Sam Worthington, Harold Perrineau, Terrance Howard, Joe Manganiello, Max Martini
STORY: An elite DEA task force begins to get picked off and murdered on by one. After it is discovered that there is a substantial amount of money missing from their last bust, the survivors are being chased by their own government as well as the bad guys – or might be the same people.
PROSPECTS: It’s Arnold, after all. A pretty decent supporting cast and some good action moments in the trailer.
OBSTACLES: Arnold doesn’t have the box office pull he once had. In fact, he’s desperately in need of a hit.
FACTOID: Enos’ role was originally given to Malin Akerman who had to drop out due to pregnancy and Enos was given the part.

MIGHT SURPRISE

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
RELEASE DATE: April 11, 2014
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin, Jeffrey Wright, Carter Logan
STORY: An underground musician reunites with his lover amid a world spiraling down into chaos in a story that has taken centuries to write.
PROSPECTS: Director Jim Jarmusch is one of the original independent directors and has a fairly passionate cult following.
OBSTACLES: A passionate cult following doesn’t necessarily translate to box office numbers. Also this is one of Jarmusch’ most mainstream offerings which might alienate some of his fan base.
FACTOID: The house next door to the bar where much of the action was filmed was torched for the insurance money shortly after filming ended.

ALSO

April 5, 2014

ISLAND OF LEMURS: MADAGASCAR (Warner Brothers) takes us to one of the largest islands in the world and to the indigenous lemur colony that lives there. This one is coming to us in IMAX. DOM HEMINGWAY (Fox Searchlight) is an English crime caper about a safecracker who after a stint in prison looks to even the score after he gets out. Jude Law stars in this limited release.

April 11, 2014

It’s DRAFT DAY (Summit) for the hapless Cleveland Browns (art imitates life) and the GM of the club, which possesses the top draft pick in the upcoming NFL draft is under enormous pressure to make a splash. Kevin Costner stars. ST. VINCENT (Weinstein) stars Bill Murray as a hedonistic war veteran who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young boy suffering through his parents’ divorce.

April 14, 2014

ALAN PARTRIDGE (Magnolia) opens in limited release and features Steve Coogan in his signature role from English television as an opinionated DJ who finds himself held hostage when a fellow DJ takes over the station after learning he’s being let go.

April 16, 2014

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL (Tri-Star) is based on the incredible true story about the toddler who had a near death experience and came back claiming he went to heaven and knowing things that he couldn’t possibly know. His father, a small town pastor and volunteer firefighter, is tested in ways he never could have predicted by his son’s notoriety.

April 18, 2014

BEARS (DisneyNature) is the fifth in the annual Earth Day series of nature films, this time concerning itself with a family of grizzlies in Alaska. In OCULUS (Relativity) a woman attempts to exonerate her brother who was convicted of murder by proving that the crime was actually committed by a supernatural power. Good luck with that.

April 25, 2014

In EARTH TO ECHO (Relativity) three young boys start receiving strange messages on their cell phones. Further investigation leads them to discover an alien being who needs their help. E.T., phone home!!! THE OTHER WOMAN (20th Century Fox) stars Cameron Diaz as a woman who discovers her boyfriend is married to another woman. When she meets the wife, she finds out to her surprise that they have a lot more in common than the two-timer – he’s cheating on the both of them with yet another woman. The three of them decide to get their revenge and no guys, it won’t be pretty. THE QUIET ONES (Lionsgate) is loosely based on actual events in which an unorthodox professor of physics sets his students the task of creating a poltergeist – and they do. WALK OF SHAME(Focus) has a beautiful young reporter who has aspirations for the big time left stranded in L.A. after a one-night stand with a handsome stranger with no car, no cash, no wallet and just eight hours to make it to the interview for her dream job.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

OBLIVION (Universal) Budget: $120 Million. Domestic Gross: $89.1M Total: $286.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
42 (Warner Brothers) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $95.0M Total: $95.0M Verdict: Made Money.
PAIN AND GAIN (Paramount) Budget: $26M. Domestic Gross: $49.9M Total: $86.2M Verdict: Hit.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP (Sony Classics) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $5.1M Total: $19.4M Verdict: Probably Broke Even.
THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $43M. Domestic Gross: $159.6M Total: $229.9M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $21.8M Total: $21.8M Verdict: Flop.
SCARY MOVIE 5 (Dimension) Budget: $20M Domestic Gross: $32.0M Total: $78.4M Verdict: Hit.
EVIL DEAD (TriStar) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $54.2M Total: $97.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE LORDS OF SALEM (Anchor Bay) Budget: $1.5M. Domestic Gross: $1.2M Total: $1.2M Verdict: Lost Money.

SUMMER

It might not seem like it now as we head into the dead of winter but on the horizon is the hot weather and hotter blockbusters of summer. This will be the first year in quite a while that there will be no Pixar movies in the multiplexes but there will be three different movies from Marvel, several big budget sci-fi epics, a legendary movie monster and movie villain both getting reboots, action films and comedies galore and of course family movies to keep the kids excited and their parents losing their minds to get the new merchandise and movie tickets all summer long. We’ll have a more detailed preview in April for the summer but here’s a taste.

Edge of TomorrowCAN’T MISS

EDGE OF TOMORROW
RELEASE DATE: June 6, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Ciaran Hinds, Noah Taylor, Lara Pulver, Charlotte Riley, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Kick Gurry, Tony Way
STORY: An inexperienced soldier, killed within minutes in a suicide mission against a superior alien invading force, is caught in a time loop, improving his skills with each replay until he is within grasp of the key to winning the war.
PROSPECTS: Cruise still has plenty of box office magic. Science fiction remains a box office force.
OBSTACLES: Alien invasion movies have typically been of shoddy quality of late. The general public will be unfamiliar with the source material, a Japanese novel.
FACTOID: The Jeremy Piven character wasn’t added until re-shoots.

SHOULD SEE

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Campbell Scott, Paul Giamatti, Sally Field, Embeth Davidtz, Colm Feore, Chris Cooper
STORY: The emergence of Spider-Man has brought new villains to New York City and at last the inevitable happens; Peter Parker must fight a villain that is far more powerful than he is.
PROSPECTS: The Spider-Man franchise has been successful throughout all its incarnations and it shows no sign of slowing down now. With the main Marvel movies (how do you like that alliteration Stan Lee?) opening in April and August, ASM2 has the first week of the summer blockbuster season all to itself.
OBSTACLES: With no less than five Marvel movies (including the animated Big Hero 6) coming out this year there may be some burnout.
FACTOID: Shailene Woodley was cast as Mary-Jane Watson and filmed scenes but it was decided to make Gwen Stacy the main love interest and hold out Mary-Jane until Amazing Spider-Man 3 currently scheduled for 2016.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
RELEASE DATE: May 23, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult
STORY: The X-Men of two generations fight for the survival of their species across time as Wolverine must travel into the past to stop an apocalyptic future from transpiring.
PROSPECTS: Brian Singer is back at the helm of the X-Men and has one of the most popular storylines from the comic book to work with and two sets of X-Men from the original trilogy and from X-Men: First Class to play with. The trailer looked absolutely fantastic.
OBSTACLES: See The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
FACTOID: Hugh Jackman as Wolverine has appeared in every X-Men movie, the only actor to have done so. This, his seventh appearance as the character is the most that the same actor has played a single character from a comic book in movie history.

MALEFICENT
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Angelina Jolie, Sharlto Copley, Elle Fanning, Sam Riley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Kenneth Cranham
STORY: A pure-hearted and beautiful young enchantress is ruthlessly betrayed in her fierce protection of the forest kingdom and swears vengeance on the King who betrayed her and his descendants.
PROSPECTS: Maleficent is one of Disney’s most iconic villains and Jolie is a perfect fit for the role. Again, the trailer looked compelling.
OBSTACLES: Storybook fantasy has been somewhat overexposed lately with ABC-TV’s Once upon a Time and Wonderland.
FACTOID: The actress playing Princess Aurora as a young girl is Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, the daughter of Jolie and Brad Pitt.

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION
RELEASE DATE: June 27, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Mark Wahlberg, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci, Li Bingbing, Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, T.J. Miller, Titus Welliver, Peter Cullen
STORY: Following the final battle in Chicago in which it seemed the Decepticons were defeated for good, Optimus Prime is faced with a new Decepticon threat.
PROSPECTS: There is still a lot of love out there for the Transformers. Mark Wahlberg is a step up from Shia LaBeouf.
OBSTACLES: An entirely new cast but Michael Bay is still the director which might make for some continuity problems for some fans.
FACTOID: The Dinobots will make their first appearance in the film series.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
RELEASE DATE: June 13, 2014
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchett, Djimon Honsou, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig
STORY: Hiccup the Viking and his dragon Toothless take on the power-hungry Drago who means to end the human-dragon cooperation that began in the first movie.
PROSPECTS: With Pixar not having a release this summer, this sequel to the hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon essentially has Pixar’s early summer spot all to itself.
OBSTACLES: The popular cartoon series based on the original movie may make this sequel a little bit less of an event than it might have been.
FACTOID: The first DreamWorks movie to use their proprietary software “Primo” and “Torch” for an entire production. These programs allow for more realistic movement and more subtlety in facial movement as well as better consistency in lighting.

JUPITER ASCENDING
RELEASE DATE: July 18, 2014
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Tim Pigott-Smith
STORY: A young woman with a larger destiny is tracked down by a genetically-enhanced hunter and brought out to a larger existence among the stars.
PROSPECTS: The Wachowskis are some of the most inventive directors out there and their vision is always interesting.
OBSTACLES: Their last two movies have been less compelling and successful than the Matrix trilogy.
FACTOID: This will be the first film directed by the Wachowskis to be released in 3D.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
RELEASE DATE: August 1, 2014
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Lee Pace, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Benicio del Toro, Djimon Honsou, Karen Gillan
STORY: An unlikely group of heroes band together to face a cosmic force of epic proportions – and epic evil.
PROSPECTS: As the lead-in to Avengers: Age of Ultron and the final film of Marvel: Phase II this will certainly have the attention of Marvel fans. Has a definite Star Wars look to it.
OBSTACLES: This is based on one of Marvel’s less successful books and may not have the name recognition other characters have.
FACTOID: Tyler Bates wrote some of the score before filming began so that director James Gunn could set the pacing of the scenes to music.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
RELEASE DATE: August 22, 2014
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.

MIGHT SURPRISE

TAMMY
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2014
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Melissa McCarthy, Susan Sarandon, Dan Aykroyd, Allison Janney, Kathy Bates, Toni Collette, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass
STORY: A woman going through a very tough time goes on a road trip to Niagara Falls – with her grandmother.
PROSPECTS: Melissa McCarthy is ridiculously hot right now. Her last two movies were among the highest-grossing comedies of the year.
OBSTACLES: McCarthy is essentially carrying the movie herself; in her past two movies she had Jason Bateman and Sandra Bullock to assist although Sarandon is a formidable actress she’s not really well-known for her comedy.
FACTOID: Sarandon has gone off on a road trip with another woman before – in Thelma and Louise.

ALSO

CHEF (Open Road) stars Jon Favreau as a highly regarded who loses his job and starts a food truck business to recalibrate his career and open the doors to reconnecting with his estranged family (May 9). LEGENDS OF OZ: DOROTHY’S RETURN (Summertime) is an animated feature that has Dorothy…well, returning to Oz. Shocker. When she gets there her friends the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are all missing so it is up to her and her new friends to find them (May 9). NEIGHBORS (Universal) has a newlywed couple moving in next door to a frat house which starts a war of nerves between the two homes (May 9). GODZILLA (Warner Brothers) reboots the legendary Japanese lizard and brings him to the West Coast of the United States (May 16). MILLION DOLLAR ARM (Disney) is based on a true story about a sports agent, desperate to save his business, who hits upon the idea of bringing Indian cricketers to play Major League baseball (May 16). BLENDED (Warner Brothers) reunites Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore as two single parents who don’t like each other with kids who don’t like each other forced to bring both of their broods on the same African safari of a lifetime (May 23). A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST (Universal) is the latest from Seth MacFarlane, here a comedy set in the old west about a cowardly sheep farmer forced to find his courage to save his love (May 30). In THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (20th Century Fox) two extraordinary teens meet in a cancer support group and fall deeply in love (June 6).22 JUMP STREET (Columbia) sends Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill to college (June 13). JERSEY BOYS (Warner Brothers) is the film version of the Tony Award-winning Broadway music of the story of the Four Seasons pop group; Clint Eastwood of all people directs (June 20). THE PURGE 2 (Universal) takes place a year after the first film as America gears up for the next Purge (June 20). THINK LIKE A MAN TOO (Screen Gems) brings back the couples from the acclaimed film inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-seller for a wedding in Las Vegas where further romantic shenanigans threaten to derail the event (June 20). In DELIVER US FROM EVIL (Screen Gems) a New York Cop joins forces with a renegade priest to battle supernatural forces terrorizing the city (July 2). DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (20th Century Fox) picks up the story of the intelligence-enhanced ape Caesar after a devastating war between men and apes (July 11). PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE (Disney) follows the further adventures of Dusty Crophopper as he joins the aerial firefighting crew (July 18). HERCULES (Paramount/MGM) stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular Greek demigod in the second of two movies about him this year (July 25). SEX TAPE (Columbia) is a comedy about a suburban PTA couple who frantically try to recover a sex tape they made of themselves to reinvigorate their marriage when it gets accidentally lost (July 25). STEP UP ALL IN (Summit) is the newest installment in the inexplicably popular dance series (July 25). GET ON UP (Universal) is the biopic about the great R&B pioneer James Brown (August 1). THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY (DreamWorks) stars Helen Mirren in a charming tale against an upstart Indian restaurant at war against a snooty traditional French restaurant in a quaint village in the south of France (August 8). INTO THE STORM (New Line) tells the remarkable story of a plucky town Midwestern town in the maw of an unprecedented run of tornadoes (August 8). LUCY (Universal) is the latest from French action film maestro Luc Besson and stars Scarlett Johansson as a woman held captive who turns into a merciless unstoppable killer (August 8).TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (Paramount) is a live action reboot of the hugely popular comic book/animated TV show from the 80s (August 8). THE EXPENDABLES 3 (Lionsgate) brings back the all-star action team with some new additions and subtractions facing their most vicious foe yet (August 15). THE GIVER (Weinstein) is set on a distant world where history isn’t written down but held by a single Receiver of Memory which is passed down to an adolescent boy; based on the Newberry Award-winning young adult novel (August 15). In WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL (TriStar) stars Jim Caviezel as legendary high school football coach Bob Ladouceur who took an obscure Northern California high school and took it to heights unparalleled in the annals of high school football (August 22). In JANE GOT A GUN (Relativity/Weinstein) a woman must ask a gunslinger, her ex-lover, to help save her outlaw husband from a brutal criminal gang who wants to kill him (August 29). JESSABELLE (Lionsgate) is a horror movie about a young woman following a horrible accident in which her fiancée was killed recuperates in her father’s crumbling Louisiana mansion discovers a gift from her long-dead mother but also that there is a strange and sinister presence in the mansion that wants to destroy her (August 29). In THE LOFT (Universal) five married men who secretly own a loft where they can carry out their illicit affairs are shocked to discover the body of a dead woman there – and one of them is almost certainly the killer (August 29).

FALL

As the weather turns colder, Hollywood moves from big noisy blockbusters to Oscar contenders and smaller, more intimate films. While this is the portion of the preview that is most subject to change, we can still reasonably expect the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s second MIddle Earth trilogy, a sci-fi epic from Christopher Nolan, the penultimate chapter of a smash hit sci-fi franchise, the first Marvel animated feature and plenty of adaptation of children’s and young adult books.

InterstellarCAN’T MISS

INTERSTELLAR
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace
STORY: A group of intrepid explorers make use of a newly discovered stable wormhole to visit the furthest reaches of space.
PROSPECTS: Nolan is box office gold. McConaughey is fresh off of a likely Oscar-nominated performance and is in maybe the best stretch of his career. The buzz on this film is already extraordinary.
OBSTACLES: The glut of sci-fi films might have the general moviegoing population weary of space travel by the time November rolls around.
FACTOID: The movie was originally to have been directed by Stephen Spielberg but when he moved on to other projects, the film’s writer Jonathan Nolan suggested the project to his brother Christopher.

SHOULD SEE

THE HOBBIT: THERE AND BACK AGAIN
RELEASE DATE: November 1, 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 conclusion of the epic trilogy as Bilbo Baggins assists Thorin and his band of dwarves in their final confrontation with the dragon Smaug.
PROSPECTS: The second film was considerably better than the first and leaves a ton of hope that this one will be the best of the three.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit trilogy just hasn’t generated the same enthusiasm as The Lord of the Rings trilogy did.
FACTOID: Lee Pace kept his Elven sword from the film which he keeps in his umbrella stand.

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2
RELEASE DATE: November 26, 2013
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Foxx, Charlie Day, Kevin Spacey, Chris Pine, Christoph Waltz
STORY: The three mistreated cubicle cowboys from the first film decide to set out on their own and start their own business but a slick investor with no scruples throws a monkey wrench in their plans.
PROSPECTS: The first film not only did strong box office but got a very high score from critics and audiences alike.
OBSTACLES: Sequels don’t always live up to the originals.
FACTOID: The Jason Sudeikis character lauded Applebee’s in the first film; Sudeikis later became a spokesman for the restaurant.

HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY – PART ONE
RELEASE DATE: November 21, 2014
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
STORY: The series moves into its final confrontation as Katness Everdeen leads the people in revolt against the corrupt Panem regime of President Snow.
PROSPECTS: The series has taken off and become a huge hit across the board. There’s no reason to expect that the next to last film in the series won’t do the same.
OBSTACLES: Once again, heavy competition might hurt it’s box office chances….yeah, right.
FACTOID: To keep security on the set tight the production filmed under the alternate title “Seashore.”

EXODUS
RELEASE DATE: December 12, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley. Hiam Abbass
STORY: The Biblical story of Moses the Lawgiver who would lead his people from Egypt to the Promised Land and establish the laws of Yahweh in Israel.
PROSPECTS: Ridley Scott knows spectacle and while this may not be Cecil B. DeMille it certainly looks epic.
OBSTACLES: Christian Bale…as Moses?!?
FACTOID: Joel Edgerton found out he got his role as Ramses from friends who’d seen it leaked online before he was officially notified.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 3
RELEASE DATE: December 25, 2014
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, Dan Stevens, Brennan Elliott, Skyler Gisondo, Anjali Jay, Patrick Gallagher, Matthew Harrison
STORY: The third installment takes the story to London.
PROSPECTS: A very popular series for families.
OBSTACLES: It’s been a while since the last one.
FACTOID: Writer Robert Ben Garant used to be on Reno 911! as an actor.

MIGHT SURPRISE

BIG HERO 6
RELEASE DATE: November 7, 2014
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Not yet announced.
STORY: A genius in robotics and a team of reluctant first-time crimefighters must save the megalopolis of San Fransokyo from a criminal plot.
PROSPECTS: The Marvel name goes a long way to bringing in crowds and so does the Disney name. Could bring in younger and older audiences alike much like The Incredibles did.
OBSTACLES: The comic book the film is based on isn’t very well-known. Anime/manga which Marvel tried to emulate here hasn’t really risen above cult status here in the States.
FACTOID: The first Marvel film to be theatrically released through Walt Disney Animation Studios.

ALSO

ADDICTED (Lionsgate) is the true story of a successful author who nearly lost everything due to her sex addiction (September 5).THE GREEN INFERNO (Open Road) follows a group of activists trying to save a dying tribe in the Amazon who end up being taken hostage by the very tribe they were sent to save (September 5). In NO GOOD DEED (Screen Gems) a charming stranger enters the home of a mom and her kids and terrorizes them (September 12). RESIDENT EVIL 6 (Screen Gems) may be the violent conclusion to the successful horror videogame adaptation series but as almost nothing is known about the plot, it wouldn’t surprise me if this got pushed out a year (September 12). SEARCH PARTY (Universal) is a comedy about a groom lost in the Mexican jungle who must rely on his bumbling friends to rescue him (September 12). THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU (Warner Brothers) has four grown siblings forced to share the same house after their father passes away; also in the dwelling is their over-sharing mother, assorted spouses, exes and the potential for chaos (September 12). DOLPHIN TALE 2 (Warner Brothers) follows the amazing story of Winter and of her new companion Hope (September 19). In THE MAZE RUNNER (20th Century Fox) a young boy must discover the secrets locked deep in his own mind if he is to ever escape the mysterious enclosure known by his fellow memory-challenged inhabitants as the Glade (September 19). THE BOXTROLLS (Focus) is the latest animated feature from stop-motion experts Laika, set in the world of trolls who live in boxes and dwell in the shadows (September 26). THE EQUALIZER (Columbia) is the new big screen version of the classic 80s TV hit with Denzel Washington taking the lead role (September 26). GONE GIRL (20th Century Fox) is the latest from director David Fincher and stars Vince Vaughn in a thriller about a seemingly distraught husband whose wife has disappeared but may know more about the disappearance than he is letting on (October 3). ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY (Disney) stars Steve Carell in a big screen version of the illustrated children’s classic (October 10). In THE INTERVIEW (Columbia) a talk show host and his producer get sucked into a plot to assassinate the leader of North Korea; Seth Rogen stars (October 10). THE JUDGE (Warner Brothers) stars Robert Downey Jr. as a hotshot lawyer returning home for his mother’s funeral and to discover the truth behind the fact that his estranged father, the town judge, is the prime suspect in her murder (October 10). THE BEST OF ME (Relativity) is the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation(October 17). BOOK OF LIFE (20th Century Fox), produced by Guillermo del Toro, is an animated feature set against a Mexican Day of the Dead backdrop (October 17). DRACULA UNTOLD (Universal) tells the story of Vlad Tepes, the man who would become Dracula (October 17). BUSINESS OR PLEASURE (20th Century Fox) features Vince Vaughn as a workaholic small business owner whose business trip to close an extremely important deal in Europe goes sideways (October 24). In PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 (Paramount) the paranormal activities continue after a year off (October 25). In BLACKBIRD (Relativity) a promising singer is saved from committing suicide by a cop and the two fall in love, earning the disapproval of her parents who are more concerned about their daughter’s career than her happiness (November 14). DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal) brings back Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Harry and Lloyd, possibly the dumbest people who ever lived (November 14). FURY (Columbia) stars Brad Pitt as the leader of a tank crew caught behind enemy lines in the waning days of World War II (November 14). In MCFARLAND (Disney) Kevin Costner stars as a track coach who transforms a group of athletes in a small California town into championship contenders (November 21). HOME (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about the most annoyingly optimistic alien in the galaxy forced to go on the run from his own race (November 26). PADDINGTON (Dimension) brings the beloved children’s books of Paddington Bear to life (December 12). ANNIE (Columbia) takes one of the beloved Broadway musicals of the last 30 years and turns it urban (December 19). INTO THE WOODS (Disney) turns Grimm’s Fairy Tales into a modern story; based on the Stephen Sondheim-penned Broadway musical (December 25). UNBROKEN (Universal) is the true story of an Olympic athlete who survived a World War II plane crash and a 47 ordeal in a raft only to be captured by the Japanese as a prisoner of war (December 25).

And with that, our preview comes to an end. 2014 promises to have its fair share of memorable times at the multiplex and we haven’t even scratched the surface; there will be hundreds of foreign and independent movies making their way onto VOD or local art houses as well as major studio releases that haven’t yet been assigned a date. Keep an eye on this space for further details. In the meantime, 2015 promises to be perhaps the biggest year at the movies of all time as near-slam dunk blockbusters are already filling up that schedule, including the first installment in the new Star Wars trilogy, the sequel to The Avengers as well as the first film in Marvel’s Phase III. We’ll also be seeing among other movies the long-awaited Superman/Batman team-up which promises to kick DC comics filmed franchise into overdrive, new movies or reboots in the Mad Max, Fantastic Four, Fast and Furious, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, James Bond, Bourne, Hunger Games, and Kung Fu Panda franchises while the Minions of Despicable Me and the Penguins of Madagascar get movies of their own. There will also be live action versions of Disney classics Cinderella and the Jungle Book as well as the Assassins Creed videogame and the wildly popular erotic novel 50 Shades of Grey while the Peanuts comic strip gets its first full length movie in 44 years and that’s just scratching the surface. So if you can keep your appetites whet that long, you’ll have to make do with the many offerings of 2014 which should tide you over nicely. Cinema365 will continue to cover the big major releases as well as a goodly amount of indie and foreign releases and with our Four-Warned and New Releases features keep you up to date as to what’s coming out here in Orlando and around the country. Happy New Year and see you at the multiplex!