Top 10 of 2013


Top 10 2014Those who read a lot of movie reviewers know that it is part of the job to rank the best movies of the year once that year is over. Not being one of those critics who gets to see all the big movies well in advance of their release date, I have to make do with getting out to see them as soon as I can, which leads to delays in publishing my top 10.

As with most things, any top 10 for any critic is a moment in time captured. This is how I feel these movies belong to be ranked at this moment, right now. I can guarantee you that I’ll look back on this next year and wonder how in the hell I ranked one movie ahead of another, or how I missed this movie or that one.

Here you’ll see plenty of movies that are already on a lot of year end lists, but there’s one you won’t see that is – Her. That’s not because I didn’t love the movie – in fact, I think that it would be near the top if not the top movie of 2013. However, while it did get released in New York and L.A. in 2013 for Academy consideration, most people in the country didn’t get a chance to see it until January of this year. That is why I decided to put the film in as part of my 2014 films. Normally I go by the release date of the movie to qualify it as a top ten film, but in all honesty these days we’re getting so many quality foreign films that were released in their own countries a year, two or even three years prior to their American release that I am going with a general “when did it get its widest release” in order to determine what year I rank the film with. You can bitch and moan if you want to but it’s my playground and my rules and I reserve the right to change them tomorrow.

I think that the quality for movies overall in 2013 was pretty high compared to recent years. Many of the honorable mentions would have made the top 10 lists in years past. This one was a bit harder to put together; there were several I had a hard time relegating to the purgatory of Honorable Mention but at the end of the day, this is my list and I’m sticking to it.

So this is the list as I see it. Feel free to leave your comments and opinions here on the site or elsewhere. I’m always happy to defend my choices. However, if you haven’t seen some of them, do seek them out; I’ll do my best to provide information as to how to go watch them right now, whether it be in your local multiplex, through an online streaming service, on your cable or satellite subscription service or at your local DVD store.

HONORABLE MENTION

There are a number of movies that didn’t quite make the cut of the top ten. I thought I’d add them here so you can get an idea of which ones came close, were considered and ultimately not chosen. Again, I will stress that all of these are quality films worth seeking out if you’re looking for entertainment, enlightenment or insight. I didn’t include links here but if you want to read my reviews of any of these, simply type in the title into the search field and have at it. So,  in no particular order;

Dallas Buyers Club, Aftermath, Saving Mr. Banks, Mud, Starbuck, A.C.O.D., Unfinished Song, Nebraska, The Book Thief, John Dies at the End, The World’s End, Stories We Tell, The Attack, Good Ol’ Freda, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me, Sightseers, Captain Phillips, Pieta, Philomena, The History of Future Folk, About Time, I Declare War, Year of the Living Dead, Quartet

This Is Where We Live

10.  THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

(Bluff City) Tobias Segal, Marc Menchaca, Barry Corbin, Frankie Shaw, C.K. McFarland, Ron Hayden, Katherine Willis, Marco Perella, Brent Smiga, Brian Orr, Christine Bruno, Carolyn Gilroy. Directed by Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca

Released April 7, 2013 A Texas hill country family has a tough go of it, with the adult son having a severe form of cerebral palsy and the father in the beginning stages of dementia. The mother is also battling high blood pressure and the sister is bitter at the hand life has dealt her. Into this volatile mix comes a rough and tumble handyman who at first builds a wheelchair ramp for the front porch but eventually becomes the son’s caretaker and friend. However his shortcomings may tear the family apart.

WHY IT IS HERE: Beautifully photographed and written with sympathy and sensitivity, this is a movie for people who love movies about people and by people, I mean real people, the sort you might run into at the grocery store or sit next to in the bar. It could have easily been a manipulative Lifetime movie but instead chooses honesty over treacle. An amazing debut by the directing team.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Tobias Segal as August expresses his frustration at trying to communicate with a body that doesn’t co-operate with him – ever.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Not available.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Is trying to secure distributorship for some sort of theatrical release. Until then, look for it on the Festival circuit.

Short Term 12

9. SHORT TERM 12

(Cinedigm) Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield, Frantz Turner, Stephanie Beatriz, Melora Walters. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Released August 23, 2013 In an era of austerity where social service funding is under fire from the fiscal conservatives, this is a look at just what that wasteful spending is actually spent on. A young woman is the caretaker of at-risk youths in a care facility in Los Angeles in an eventful few days in the facility. A girl is admitted, one who reminds the caretaker strikingly of herself. A long-time resident prepares to get released to live on his own. And the caretaker discovers that she is pregnant, which triggers her own long-held emotional issues.

WHY IT IS HERE: As authentic a movie as was released in 2013. A warts-and-all portrayal of troubled kids and of the young people who care for them. Larson’s performance would certainly have been in the mix for the Best Actress Oscar had this been released by a major studio; suffice to say she has what it takes to get the gold somewhere down the line. Surrounded by a great young cast, Larson shines and elevates this film to the next level.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Larson “rescues” Dever from the home of her abusive father and in doing so the inner pain of both women comes to the surface.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $1 million domestic (as of 1/14/14), $1 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon.

The Wolf of Wall Street

8. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

(Paramount) Leonardo di Caprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Kenneth Choi, PJ Byrne, Jon Bernthal, Joanna Lumley. Directed by Martin Scorsese

Released December 25, 2013 It seems only fitting that Scorsese would in this day and age make a film about amoral Wall Street capitalists – after all, they are the new mob of the 21st century. Still, there is a fascination to the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort from ambitious penny stock trader to criminal on an epic scale. All the drugs, all the language, the greed and the women – it’s a morality tale like none other.

WHY IT IS HERE: Di Caprio delivers one of the defining performances of his career to date and Hill proves he’s more than a one-shot wonder with an Oscar-nominated performance. While some have complained about the indulgences and the f-bombs, nonetheless there’s authenticity about what you see onscreen. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, then money corrupts inevitably. One of the critical hits of the year and judging on the box office returns this may well being one of Scorsese’s biggest hits ever.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Delayed-reaction Quaaludes. That’s all you need to know.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $82.8 million domestic (as of 1/17/14), $120.9M total.

BUDGET: $100M

STATUS: Still out in wide release.

The Hunt

7. THE HUNT (JAGTEN)

(Magnolia) Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Annika Wedderkoop, Lasse Fogelstrom, Susse Wold, Anne Louise Hassing, Lars Ranthe, Alexandra Rapaport, Ole Dupont, Rikke Bergmann, Allan Wilbor Christensen. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg

Released July 12, 2013 We were one of the first in the country to see this here in Orlando at the Florida Film Festival. Recently this was announced to be one of the final nominees for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Given it’s wrenching story about a substitute teacher who is just trying to get his life together after a bitter divorce accused of molesting a little girl, it’s hardly unsurprising but there is more to this than simply a terrific story.

WHY IT IS HERE: The storyline, as well-told as it is, is brought to life by an Oscar-worthy performance by Mikkelsen. In a year in which we’ve been treated to a wealth of fine performances, this is as good as any as you’ll witness, Only the fact that this is a mid-major distributor and a foreign film kept Mikkelsen from being in the Oscar mix. This is the kind of movie that leaves you feeling emotionally drained after seeing it.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The Christmas eve church confrontation.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $613,308 domestic (as of 1/21/14), $16.76M total..

BUDGET: $3.45M.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix/Blockbuster. Stream from Amazon/Blockbuster/Netflix/iTunes.

Fruitvale Station

6. FRUITVALE STATION

(Weinstein) Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ariana Neal, Ahna O’Reilly, Keenan Coogler, Trestin George, Joey Oglesby, Michael James, Marjorie Shears, Destiny Ekwueme. Directed by Ryan Coogler

Released July 12, 2013 Based on true events that happened on the last day of 2008 (and on the first day of 2009), the shooting of Oscar Grant III at an East Bay BART station galvanized the Bay Area and the nation as to the training of transit police and their use of firearms. Taking place on the last day of his life, the film shows the story of a man who’s made some terrible mistakes trying to get his life together only to lose it in a senseless confrontation

WHY IT IS HERE: Some talk about Oscar snubs to Redford and Hanks but this entire movie has gotten snubbed this entire awards season and it just isn’t right. Part of he problem was that the movie was released back in July but frankly the studio hasn’t really supported it as much as it deserves either. The movie certainly should have received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Jordan), Best Supporting Actress (Spencer) and Best Original Screenplay. Hopefully the justice will be in big boosts to the careers of Coogler and Jordan.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: When a mother is informed that her son is dead.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $16.1 million domestic (as of 1/21/14), $16.7 million total.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/ iTunes.

20 Feet from Stardom

5. 20 FEET FROM STARDOM

(Radius) Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fisher, Judith Hill, Tata Vega, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Chris Botti, Lynn Mabry, Claudia Lennear, Sheryl Crow, Patti Austin. Directed by Morgan Neville

Released June 14, 2013 Most of us know the stars out front belting out the hits but few of us are all that aware of the back-up singers who often sing the parts of the song we sing along to. Some of them are the most talented and powerful voices in the business bar none – including the stars, who would be the first to tell you so. These are the anti-American Idols – women content to remain in the background, who sing for the love of singing rather than in pursuit of fame.

WHY IT IS HERE: This Oscar-nominated documentary shines a light on those who have shunned the spotlight, some for nearly 50 years and still going strong. This was the opening night film for the 2013 Florida Film Festival and an auspicious kick-off to that event it was, with Merry Clayton a special guest gracing opening night filmgoers with a song.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: A deconstruction of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Gimme Shelter” with the various tracks stripped away until only Clayton’s powerful voice remains.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $4.8M domestic (as of 1/22/14), $5.2M worldwide.

BUDGET: Not available

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/ iTunes.

Gravity

4. GRAVITY

(Warner Brothers) Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice), Phaldut Sharma (voice), Orto Ignatiussen (voice), Amy Warren (voice), Basher Savage (voice). Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Released October 3, 2013 Perhaps the worst possible fear of an astronaut is a disaster in space, crippling their spacecraft and robbing them of a ride home. For all our well-trained, cool-as-a-cucumber-under-pressure NASA heroes, there’s no doubt that each one of them are human inside and in a situation like that would be absolutely terrified. This comes as close as we can to making that situation real for a general audience.

WHY IT IS HERE: Stunning special effects that duplicate weightlessness so perfectly, and a bravura Oscar-nominated performance by Bullock (and justifiably so). This has been getting rabid kudos from critics and audiences alike since it opened and it is no surprise that it is one of the finalists for the Best Picture Oscar.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The initial collision with the debris field that leaves Bullock’s character spinning out of control and headed for deep space – all against eerie silence.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $258.9 million domestic (as of 1/21/14), $677.7 million total.

BUDGET: $100 million.

STATUS: Still in wide release; scheduled for home video release on February 25.

The Forgotten Kingdom

3. THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM

(Black Kettle) Zenzo Ngqobe, Nozipho Nkelemba, Jerry Mofokeng, Lebohang Ntsane, Moshoshoe Chabeli, Lillian Dube, Sam Phillips. Directed by Andrew Mudge

Released April 5, 2013 This is yet another movie on this list that I first caught at the Florida Film Festival – in this case, the best film I caught at the FFF this year. In it a South African man, living a life of drinking and womanizing, is charged with taking his father – from whom he was estranged – back to Lesotho to be buried. Along the way he rekindles an old flame, learns something about his dad and of himself – and of Africa.

WHY IT IS HERE: An amazing film that drills down father-son relationships and forces you to explore your own relationships with your parents and/or your children. Beautifully shot in gorgeous African vistas, this is a movie so compelling and beautiful that I was thinking about it for days. I’m still thinking about it now.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Atang’s confrontation with Dineo’s father.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: Not available.

BUDGET: Not available.

STATUS: Still appearing on the festival circuit. At this time there are no concrete plans for home video release but at some point hopefully that will change.

12 Years a Slave

2.  12 YEARS A SLAVE

(Fox Searchlight) Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Lupita Nyong’o, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Alfre Woodard. Directed by Steve McQueen

Released October 18, 2013 Solomon Northup, a free American of African descent, is betrayed, kidnapped and sold into slavery. Sent to the deep South of the plantations of Louisiana, he is taken away from his wife and children and must learn to survive in the brutal world of the cotton fields, maintaining the hope that one day he will be free once again.

WHY IT IS HERE: Just a magnificently gripping film, one which can show the depths of human depravity one moment and the heights of the strength of the human spirit the next. Ejiofor comes out as a legitimate star here while McQueen who for years has been labeled as a director of enormous promise, fulfills it here.

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: Solomon Northup sobbing as he is being carted away in a wagon as he is at last set free.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $43.9M (as of 1/2913), $79.0M total.

BUDGET: $20 million.

STATUS: Still in wide release. Expected to be released on home video this spring.

The Act of Killing

1. THE ACT OF KILLING

 (Drafthouse) Anwars Congo, Herman Koto, Safit Pardede, Adi Zulkadry, Haji Anif, Jusuf Kalla, Ibrahim Sinik, Syamsul Arfin. Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

Released July 19, 2013 During the Indonesian military takeover in the mid-1960s, thousands upon thousands of Indonesians were murdered by death squad, often led by members of organized crime. In an effort to rid the country of leftists and communists, the net was expanded to include executions of ethnic Chinese and as time went on, basically anyone they wanted. Some of the more notorious death squad leaders were interviewed here and invited to re-enact their crimes in any style they wished; being to a man big fans of Hollywood movies, they would choose some fairly inventive means.

WHY IT IS HERE: I can’t say I enjoyed this movie but the experience of it really changed my perceptions on the notions of forgiveness and humanity. Anwars Congo, one of the most blood-soaked of the death squad leaders (and one of the most revered in Indonesia), is today a grandfatherly sort whose gentle onscreen demeanor is at odds with the horrors of his vicious, cruel and bloodthirsty acts. Is there redemption for men like that? Can one feel sympathy for the devil?

HIGHLIGHT SCENE: The scene on the roof when the horror of his actions catches up with Anwar and he has a violently physical reaction.

BOX OFFICE RESULTS: $469, 214 domestic (as of 1/29/13), $469,214 total.

BUDGET: $1 million.

STATUS: Currently available on home video. Download from iTunes/Amazon. Rent DVD/Blu-Ray from Netflix. Stream from Amazon/iTunes/Netflix.

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Unfinished Song


Terence Stamp is perturbed that Gemma Arterton refuses to kneel before Zod.

Terence Stamp is perturbed that Gemma Arterton refuses to kneel before Zod.

(2012) Dramedy (Weinstein) Terence Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Eccleston, Barry Martin, Taru Devani, Anne Reid, Elizabeth Counsell, Ram John Holder, Denise Rubens, Arthur Nightingale, Jumayn Hunter, Orla Hill, Bill Thomas, Willie Jonah, Calita Reinford, Federay Holmes, Alan Ruscoe, Sally Ann Matthews. Directed by Paul Andrew Williams

Florida Film Festival 2013

We call ’em tearjerkers. They are movies that (sometimes shamelessly) manipulate us emotionally, bringing us to a nice cathartic cry. There are critics who can’t stand those sorts of movies and excoriate them up one side and down the other. Personally I think these scribes have a real hard time getting in touch with their feelings but that’s just a generalization on my part. However, it is also true that sometimes a good cry is what we need to clean out the old emotional tank and it’s not necessarily a bad thing if we are manipulated into doing so – if it’s done artfully.

Arthur (Stamp) is an elderly retired Brit who seems to be in a perpetual state of grouchiness. He hangs out playing dominos at the pub with his friends and lives with his frail wife Marion (Redgrave) who must be some kind of saint to put up with Arthur’s behavior. She’s a dedicated member of a senior choir who calls themselves the OAPz (for Old Age Pensioners, adding the “z” to show they aren’t out of touch – although that sort of thing is about five to ten years out of date). The choir mistress is the plucky, terminally cheerful Elizabeth (Arterton) whose song choices include the B-52s “Love Shack” and Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

Marion has cancer and so it falls on Arthur to take her to and from choir practice. A regional competition is approaching, but Marion’s days are numbered and everyone knows it, including (and especially) Arthur who becomes more and more fiercely protective of her as time goes on. However, as it often does, time runs out before Marion gets to sing at the competition.

Arthur is devastated and his strained relationship with his son James (Eccleston) grows even more so. In fact, Arthur wants nothing to do with his boy and says as much. James is crushed, essentially losing both parents in a fell swoop but  gamely continues to try reaching out until it becomes obvious that nothing will ever come of it.

Elizabeth forms an unlikely friendship with Arthur; both are wounded souls who need someone to lean on and to both of their surprise, it turns out to be each other. Arthur is at last convinced to join the chorus but whether they can defy the odds and beat much more classically-oriented choirs in the competition remains to be seen.

Of late there have been a number of fine movies regarding aging and the elderly coming out of Britain, including (but not limited to) Quartet, How About You? and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. This is indeed a worthy addition to that list and is so because of the moving performances of the leads, particularly Stamp and Redgrave. Stamp, best known for his villainous portrayals over the years, channels his inner curmudgeon and gives us a character whose inner bitterness is mitigated by the influence of his wife. When she passes, he is utterly lost and we see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

Two of the most affecting scenes in the film take place when Marion and Arthur sing to each other about their feelings, Marion singing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” while Arthur sings Billy Joel’s “Lullaby” after Marion is gone. Definitely not a dry eye in the house for that one. Between them, Stamp and Redgrave have 106 years of experience on the silver screen and it shows here.

Eccleston, better known as the ninth Doctor in the hugely popular BBC series Doctor Who shows his dramatic side as Arthur’s somewhat life-wearied son. A single parent, James has a difficult time of things that Arthur doesn’t help much with; he seems to be a decent sort but is clearly frustrated at the gulf between him and his Dad and isn’t sure how to bridge it. Arterton is also building quite the satisfying resume in her career and this might well be her best performance yet which is saying something.

The one gripe I have with the movie – and to be truthful not just with this movie but in general – is its portrayal of the elderly. Yes, I know it’s cute to have them singing rap songs and pop songs from the rock era but I get the sense that the writers of these screenplays have little if any contact with actual elderly people. You know they do sing rock songs, they do dance and they’re more active than ever. Portraying them as cute but befuddled idiots, hopelessly anachronistic, does a disservice to those old people who are a part of our community and should be more valued than they are, but in all fairness Hollywood’s bias is just symptomatic of an overall disrespecting of the elderly going on in society.

That aside, the movie is definitely maudlin in places but is rescued by the dignified and assured performances by the leads. I knew that I was being manipulated but when it is done by master thespians, it’s hard to mind because the performances are so worthwhile. This is playing in limited release but is absolutely worth seeking out if it’s anywhere near you, or catching it on VOD if not.

REASONS TO GO: Affecting performances by the leads. Heart-warming.
REASONS TO STAY: A bit patronizing to the elderly.
FAMILY VALUES:  Arthur delivers a few choice rude gestures and there’s some intimations of sensuality in the film.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was originally titled Song for Marion under which name it was released in the UK.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/21/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 65% positive reviews. Metacritic: 54/100; the reviews aren’t scintillating but are trending towards the positive.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Young@Heart
FINAL RATING: 9/10
NEXT:
The Purge

2013 Summer Movie Preview


Summer Movie Preview 2013

Last year, the word was “optimism.” With a box office on the upswing and some heavy hitters waiting and eager to get a share of the summer box office, Hollywood looked for a record year – and they got one.

Led by The Avengers, Hollywood reeled off some big earners – like The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man and Brave – as well as establishing some pretty fair hits in Ted, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus. While there were a few misfires, there was enough business in the multiplexes to carry Hollywood on to a record box office year.

The line-up this year is frankly less gaudy than 2012 – or even 2011 for that matter and the lead-in is less strong – to date there really haven’t been any major blockbusters leading in to the summer of 2013 and that is becoming of increasing importance on the modern Hollywood landscape as traditional thinking as to how to approach summer movies – indeed, of how to approach marketing ALL movies – is changing with the advent of more readily available product through on-demand video, streaming and made-for-internet videos.

There are no movies as anticipated as the two big money-makers from last year, although Iron Man 3 is expected to do well and the sequel to the Star Trek reboot – Star Trek Into Darkness – looks to continue JJ Abrams’ hot streak at the box office.

Speaking of reboots, Man of Steel will take a darker tone with the Superman franchise as DC Comics tries to somehow find some hits that don’t involve the Caped Crusader. There will be plenty of sequels as The Wolverine takes the X-Men’s popular mutant and puts him into one of his most iconic locations – Japan, where some of the character’s most memorable comic book adventures took place. Kick-Ass 2 will follow up the underground hit and RED 2 will bring the geriatric superspies to the big screen.

Families will get plenty to do this summer with Epic, Planes, Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University. For those looking for a sci-fi fix, in addition to the new Star Trek there’s After Earth, Pacific Rim, Europa Report, The Colony and Elysium. Horror fans can expect plenty of scares from Aftershock, Byzantium, World War Z, V/H/S 2, You’re Next, Satanic, The Conjuring and R.I.P.D. Those looking for a laugh will undoubtedly find them in The Hangover Part III, The Internship, The Heat, Grown-Ups 2 and This is the End. Action junkies will get all they crave with The Lone Ranger, Now You See Me, Fast and Furious 6, White House Down, 300: Rise of an Empire and 2 Guns. If you are of a literary bent, you can see your books on screen with The Great Gatsby, Much Ado About Nothing, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

The stars will be out as you can catch films with such stars as Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Don Cheadle, Billy Crystal, Sandra Bullock, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Farrell, Dwayne Johnson, Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Bradley Cooper, Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, Adam Sandler, Kevin Costner, Robert Downey Jr., Vince Vaughn, Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, Leonardo di Caprio, Kevin James, Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis, Channing Tatum, Vin Diesel, James Franco, Tobey Maguire, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Ben Kingsley, Helen Mirren, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Neil Patrick Harris, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Simon Pegg, Ethan Hawk, Emma Roberts, Andy Samberg, Eric Bana, John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer, Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Armie Hammer, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster, Salma Hayek, Kevin Bacon, Christoph Waltz, Pierce Brosnan, Paul Giamatti, Al Pacino, Maya Rudolph, Will Smith, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Woody Harrelson and Gwynneth Paltrow.

In addition, a good number of independent and mid-major distributors will be making their movies available on VOD for those people who don’t have access to art houses, or live in cities where smaller distributors can’t get the screens to show their films. This is a bit of a double-edge sword; on the one hand, it does make a wider range of movies available so films that might not otherwise be seen can get at least some sort of audience. However, it does continue the trend away from theaters and more towards home viewing. While I suspect there will always be big blockbuster movies in theaters (which the summers are made for), it does seem to point at people seeing films more and more through other sources. That’s not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion – it’s just something older generations such as mine will have to get used to as time goes on.

You don’t have to be a Man of Steel to be one of The Kings of Summer. You don’t have to be a Lone Ranger to beat The Heat either; just Getaway into an air-conditioned multiplex and Purge your cares away. This is the End of your worries if you do. Put this on your To-Do List and you’ll be a Grown-Ups 2. Now You See Me doing the same thing so you know You’re Next. Just sit down, relax and enjoy your movie – it’s better than a Closed Circuit prizefight or even a One Direction concert. Especially that.

MAY

Phase Two of the Marvel Universe kicks off this year as May once again has a Marvel hero headlining. In addition we’ll see the latest in a beloved sci-fi franchise while one of the most successful comedy film franchises comes to a close and an action franchise turns six and director Baz Luhrmann weighs in with a new screen version of a literary classic.

Iron Man 3

 

SUMMER LOVE

IRON MAN 3
RELEASE DATE: May 2, 2013
STUDIO: Disney/Marvel
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Ben Kingsley, Gwynneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, James Badge Dale, Rebecca Hall, Wang Xuequi
STORY: Tony Stark is having trouble adjusting after the events of The Avengers. He is worried that he’s losing his identity as Tony Stark in favor of Iron Man. It’s probably not a good time therefore that his greatest comic book enemy – the Mandarin – makes an appearance.
PROSPECTS: Anticipation is very high for the first post-Avengers Marvel movie as fans are eager to see the direction the franchise is going in. Downey is a big fan favorite and the buzz on this movie is that the franchise hasn’t lost any steam whatsoever.
OBSTACLES: Jon Favreau has exited the director’s chair and while Shane Black is a capable writer and director, his ability to handle a big effects-driven film like this is unknown. One wonders as well if there will be any post-Avengers backlash.
FACTOID: Following the success of The Avengers Disney approved a budget increase from $140M to $200M to allow Black to make the best movie he could to maintain Marvel’s momentum.

SUMMER ROMANCE

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
RELEASE DATE: May 17, 2013 (opening on IMAX screens two days earlier)
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin, Alice Eve, Peter Weller
STORY: The crew of the Enterprise is stunned by a shocking act of terrorism that was perpetrated from within Starfleet. Now Captain Kirk must lead a manhunt to capture a nearly unstoppable force and bring those responsible to justice – but that chase may cost him his ship and his crew.
PROSPECTS: JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise was wildly successful back in 2009. There’s no reason to believe given the amount of buzz and judging from the footage that has been shown so far in the trailers that this will be any less successful.
OBSTACLES: Some are whispering that this has some parallels to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that may be too steep to ignore.
FACTOID: Benicio del Toro was initially cast in the role of the villain but eventually declined due to monetary issues; Cumberbatch (who was recommended to Abrams by Steven Spielberg) was eventually given the part.

THE GREAT GATSBY
RELEASE DATE: May 10, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Leonardo di Caprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke, Amitabh Bachchan, Adelaide Clemens
STORY: A war veteran from the Midwest aspiring to be a writer moves to New York and ends up living next door to Jay Gatsby, a pampered rich man whose lavish parties and epic lifestyle mask demons and dark deeds, ultimately leading to tragedy.
PROSPECTS: Baz Luhrmann knows how to make eye-popping visuals and looks to have recreated Jazz Age New York City to a near-perfect extent. With di Caprio in the lead, there is enough star power here to attract at least some interest from the moviegoing public.
OBSTACLES: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s source material isn’t necessarily going to connect with di Caprio’s fan base. The movie was delayed from December due to production delays which might cause some negative buzz.
FACTOID: As is typical with Luhrmann’s films, the period-set movie will use modern artists and music on the soundtrack.

EPIC
RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler
STORY: A teenage girl finds herself caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil raging in the depths of a nearby forest at a tiny level. She must find a way to save both that world and our own and return to her original size or risk losing her family forever.
PROSPECTS: The first big family movie of the summer and the only one between The Croods and Monsters University which means it will have the first part of summer essentially to itself.
OBSTACLES: Lacks star power in the voice cast. Forest battle animated features have not done well at the box office.
FACTOID: This is based on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Joyce and director Chris Wedge previously worked together on Robots which Wedge directed and Joyce produced.

SUMMER FLING

WE STEAL SECRETS: THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS
RELEASE DATE: May 24, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo, Nick Davies, James Ball, Smari McCarthy, Iain Overton, J. William Leonard
STORY: The story of the controversial website which exposes governmental and business secrets and shenanigans to the light of day.
PROSPECTS: Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney knows how to put together a compelling documentary. The story is kind of a sexy one which got lots of media attention with little context.
OBSTACLES: Assange is a polarizing figure who some consider irresponsible. He also declined any involvement in the film.
FACTOID: The film’s title is not meant to characterize WikiLeaks’ method of operation but rather is a quote from former CIA director Michael Hayden who was trying to explain the function of his agency.

SUMMER CAMP

May 3, 2013

LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED (Sony Classics), opening in limited release, stars Pierce Brosnan in Oscar-winning director Suzanne Bier’s new romantic comedy about a group of people who are seeking love in Sorrento, Italy who find it in surprising ways. This recently played the Florida Film Festival, although I was unable to get to the screening for it.

May 10, 2013

In AFTERSHOCK (Radius) an American tourist is caught in an underground nightclub in Chile during a major earthquake. Getting through to the surface is only the beginning of the horror. This is playing in limited release only. PEEPLES (Lionsgate) has an working man crashing the family reunion of a wealthy family in the Hamptons to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Of course, things don’t go exactly as expected. Isn’t this more or less a Fokker thing?

May 17, 2013

Opening in limited release FRANCES HA (IFC) is the latest from acclaimed director Noah Baumbach (Greenberg) starring indie darling Greta Gerwig (Lola Versus) as a free spirited young girl in New York who doesn’t mind dreaming dreams no matter how impossible they might be to achieve.

May 24, 2013

FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Universal) brings back Dwayne Johnson into the revitalized Vin Diesel/Paul Walker underground car racing series; this time the feds need Dom’s crew to help stop an international criminal who uses cars like military weapons; and the person running the show is one of their own. THE HANGOVER PART III (Warner Brothers) returns the Wolf Pack to Las Vegas for one final showdown – and supposedly this will bring the film franchise to a conclusion.

May 31, 2013

AFTER EARTH (Columbia) stars Will and Jaden Smith as a father and son whose space ship crashes on a hostile planet. With the father injured the son must retrieve a beacon from a different part of the ship whose wreckage is miles away but is he ready to face an environment that has evolved to kill humans? NOW YOU SEE ME (Summit) has a trio of stage magicians (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Isla Fisher) being chased by the authorities after pulling off a string of daring bank robberies; but is this the real thing or is it just an illusion? Morgan Freeman co-stars. THE KINGS OF SUMMER (CBS) has a trio of high school buddies who decide to give their parents the ultimate f you by building their own home in the woods and living off the land. Kind of. This is opening in limited release but it should be playing more or less nationwide.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

THE AVENGERS (Disney/Marvel) Budget: $220 Million. Domestic Gross: $623.4M Total: $1.5 Billion. Verdict: Blockbuster.
MEN IN BLACK III (Columbia) Budget: $225M. Domestic Gross: $179.0M Total: $624.0M Verdict: Hit.
BATTLESHIP (Universal) Budget: $209M. Domestic Gross: $65.4M Total: $303.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
DARK SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $150M. Domestic Gross: $79.7M Total: $239.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $46.4M Total: $136.8M Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE DICTATOR (Paramount) Budget: $65M. Domestic Gross: $59.7M Total: $177.6M Verdict: Hit.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $1M. Domestic Gross: $18.1M Total: $37.2M Verdict: Hit.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING (Lionsgate) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $41.2M Total: $84.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
THE INTOUCHABLES (Weinstein) Budget: $12.4M. Domestic Gross: $10.2M Total: $426.6 Verdict: Blockbuster.

JUNE

June tends to be a bit calm after the summer blockbuster kickoff in May. While there are always some big budget hits on the schedule, there tends to be less anticipation for the movies that are released between Memorial Day and Independence Day. Still, Pixar always releases a movie in June and this year is no different as they bring in a long-awaited prequel to one of their most beloved films ever, Superman gets a new look from respected fan favorite director Zach Snider, Brad Pitt takes on the zombie apocalypse, Will Smith and his son Jaden crash land on a hostile planet and Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson team up for the first time since The Wedding Crashers.

Man of Steel

SUMMER LOVE

MAN OF STEEL
RELEASE DATE: June 14, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Christopher Meloni
STORY: A young boy discovers that he has amazing powers and that he isn’t of this Earth. Concerned that if he’s discovered that he’ll be feared and mistrusted, he hides from sight until evil from his home planet threatens his new home, forcing him to reveal himself to be the hero he was always meant to be.
PROSPECTS: The buzz is that this is the Superman movie that will revive the franchise in the way The Dark Knight revived Batman. DC, needing a franchise now that Christopher Nolan has exited Batman have utilized Nolan as a consultant here and that alone has been enough to get fans excited.
OBSTACLES: Director Zach Snyder’s last, Sucker Punch was an artistic and commercial failure. Superman hasn’t had the cache that Batman has for more than 40 years.
FACTOID: Brandon Routh who played Superman in Superman Returns was contracted to return in the role and was willing to do it but Snyder chose to do a clean break from every other previous cinematic incarnation of the character and create his own vision for the story.

SUMMER ROMANCE

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Disney*Pixar
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Helen Mirren, Julia Sweeney, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina
STORY: Before they became the best of friends Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan went to college and couldn’t stand the sight of one another. This is how they learned to overcome their differences, work together and become better for it.
PROSPECTS: Like all Pixar movies this one is being shrewdly marketed and Monsters, Inc. is one of their stronger films.
OBSTACLES: While Brave did gangbusters, there hasn’t been as much cache for the studio of late. This doesn’t appear to be the kind of movie that will carry mega-success with it, and the competition on both ends will be fierce with Epic and Despicable Me 2 bookending the movie.
FACTOID: This is Pixar’s first prequel.

WORLD WAR Z
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Eric West, Elyes Gabel
STORY: When a pandemic turns humans into flesh-eating ghouls, a United Nations employee must traverse the world in order to stop the disease that has already toppled governments before it wipes out the human race.
PROSPECTS: The Max Brooks novel on which this is based has become one of the more acclaimed and beloved books of the last ten years. Pitt is one of the most dependable stars in Hollywood right now. Zombies are also super hot as the success of Warm Bodies and The Walking Dead attest.
OBSTACLES: There might be some zombie apocalypse oversaturation going on. Most zombie films have been low-budget affairs; it is yet to be proven that there is an audience to justify the budget that World War Z carries.
FACTOID: The original novel was in fact a sequel to the satirical The Zombie Survival Guide.

THIS IS THE END
RELEASE DATE: June 12, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart
STORY: A group of Hollywood stars are trapped in a house as strange apocalyptic events befall Los Angeles. As cabin fever and dwindling supplies begin to create conflict within the group, they realize that in leaving their safe haven may be the key to their redemption.
PROSPECTS: The prospect of Hollywood stars playing themselves in an impossible situation is appealing and the trailer was funny as hell.
OBSTACLES: Could be all concept and no substance. None of these guys with the exception of Segel and Rogen have a history of carrying major studio films up until now.
FACTOID: There were rumors that Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe had been cast but they were only half-right – his co-star Emma Watson actually has a cameo.

SUMMER FLING

UNFINISHED SONG
RELEASE DATE: June 21, 2013
STUDIO: Weinstein
STARRING: Terrance Stamp, Gemma Arterton, Christopher Eccleston, Vanessa Redgrave, Anne Reid, Elizabeth Counsell, Ram John Holder, Calita Reinford
STORY: A curmudgeonly old man is transformed by joining the seniors choir his wife belonged to as he and the choir director develop a friendship that lifts them both up.
PROSPECTS: Saw this at the Florida Film Festival and the performances in the film elevate it right up there with some of the year’s best.
OBSTACLES: Some will look askance at a film about the elderly especially one which tugs on the heartstrings as this one does.
FACTOID: Among the songs the choir performs are Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” and Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex.”

SUMMER CAMP

June 7, 2013

In THE INTERNSHIP (20th Century Fox) The Wedding Crashers’ Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are reunited as a couple of hard-sell salesmen who, after their employers go belly-up, wind up working for an internship at Google. Knowing nothing about technology, they do know that this might be their last chance – and if they know one thing, it’s selling themselves. THE PURGE (Universe) is set in a near future where for 12 hours every year crime goes unpunished and uninvestigated. A family settling in for the night behind the fortress-like walls of their home find that their impregnable fortress isn’t so safe when they take in a stranger who has a vicious group of thugs after him. MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (Roadside Attractions), opening in limited release, is a modern re-telling of the Bard’s classic romance as interpreted by ultrahot Joss Wheden and to make it further unmarketable, shot in glorious black and white.

June 14, 2013

THE BLING RING (A24) is the latest from Oscar-winning director Sofia Coppola and is based on the true story of a group of teenagers who targeted celebrities in a series of burglaries. This is also opening in limited release.

June 21, 2013

A HIJACKING (Magnolia) is also opening in limited release and displays the deadly game being played between a shipping magnate and the Somali pirates who have taken his ship. Another movie opening in limited release, MANIAC (IFC Midnight) is a remake of the 1980 horror classic about a serial killer who stalks random women in New York City with ex-hobbit Elijah Wood playing the title role.

June 28, 2013

THE HEAT (20th Century Fox) teams up Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as an uptight FBI agent and an out-of-control Boston cop who are forced to team up in pursuit of a vicious drug cartel. WHITE HOUSE DOWN (Columbia) stars Channing Tatum as a cop taking his daughter on a tour of the White House when it is overrun by terrorists. Now he must not only protect his daughter but also the President, played by Jamie Foxx. Now that’s a candidate I can get behind! BYZANTIUM (IFC) is about a mysterious pair of women who seek shelter at a rundown resort and confess their secret – they’re vampires. Veteran director Neil Jordan was behind the camera for this one, which is also scheduled for limited release.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

PROMETHEUS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $130 Million. Domestic Gross: $126.5M Total: $403.4 Verdict: Hit.
BRAVE (Disney*Pixar) Budget: $185M. Domestic Gross: $237.3M Total: $538.8M Verdict: Hit.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $116.5M Verdict: Broke Even.
ROCK OF AGES (New Line) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $38.5M Total: $56.4M Verdict: Flop.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $7.1M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Universal) Budget: $170M. Domestic Gross: $155.3M Total: $396.6 Verdict: Made Money.
THAT’S MY BOY (Columbia) Budget: $70M. Domestic Gross: $36.9M Total: $57.7M Verdict: Flop.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (DreamWorks) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $216.4M Total: $742.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $1.8M. Domestic Gross: $12.8M Total: $19.7M Verdict: Hit.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S WITNESS PROTECTION (Lionsgate) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $65.7M Total: $65.7M Verdict: Hit.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (FilmDistrict) Budget: $750K. Domestic Gross: $4.0M Total: $4.0M Verdict: Hit.

JULY

Usually July is like a firecracker in the middle of summer with the Independence Day weekend kicking off some of the more anticipated movies of the season. This year, Guillermo del Toro brings a long-awaited giant robot alien invasion movie to the screen, a beloved hero whose pedigree goes back to the days of radio gets a cinematic reboot, Belgium’s bluest return in a sequel to their hit kid’s movie, one of Marvel’s darkest superheroes gets a new solo film that may finally adequately reflect that darkness, the police force of the dead leap from the pages of the comic books onto the summer screens and one of the biggest animated hits of the past few years gets a sequel.

Pacific Rim

 

SUMMER LOVE

PACIFIC RIM
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Ron Perlman, Robert Kazinski, Max Martini, Clifton Collins Jr., Burn Gorman, Brad William Henke
STORY: Gigantic alien invaders from the deep are fought with giant robots. However the aliens are winning and mankind’s only hope comes from an obsolete robot, an untested rookie and a burned out former pilot.
PROSPECTS: Guillermo del Toro is a big favorite among the fans and has enough cache to get butts into seats. Not a lot of footage has come out but what has looks striking.
OBSTACLES: Giant robots are more of a Japanese thing than an American thing and it could come out looking a bit ridiculous to the general American public.
FACTOID: Hunnam and Perlman also star in the biker TV drama Sons of Anarchy.

SUMMER ROMANCE

THE WOLVERINE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hal Yamanouchi, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Brian Tee
STORY: Logan, given an opportunity to become somewhat normal has his healing ability stripped fro him only to find himself in the middle of a war involving the Yakuza.
PROSPECTS: The Wolverine’s Japanese-set adventures are among the most popular in his comic book history. Fans are still pretty down with Jackman as Logan.
OBSTACLES: The origins story didn’t garner much love among the fans although it generated enough revenue to warrant further Wolverine solo adventures.
FACTOID: The movie is a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand. Jackman consulted with Dwayne Johnson on how to bulk up for the movie.

DESPICABLE ME 2
RELEASE DATE: July 3, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Al Pacino, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong, Moises Arias
STORY: Gru is recruited by a anti-supervillain league to help them take on the baddest and most diabolical supervillain since…Gru.
PROSPECTS: The Minions are some of the most beloved animated characters of the past ten years and each time they came onscreen during the previews, kids cheered.
OBSTACLES: Well, if it isn’t that good parents won’t be as willing to bring their kids to see it two and three times.
FACTOID: Wiig is playing a different character than she did in the original Despicable Me.

GROWN UPS 2
RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2013
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, Dennis Spade, Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz
STORY: After the first Grown Ups, Lenny has moved his family back to the small town he and his friends grew up in. On the last day of school, he and his friends are taught a lesson by their kids.
PROSPECTS: A big hit, the first film was only waiting for the schedules of all the stars to free up simultaneously to get made.
OBSTACLES: Adam Sandler could certainly use a hit. The first movie was critically pounded; most of the buzz surrounding the sequel is pretty negative.
FACTOID: Rob Schneider had to bow out of the sequel due to scheduling conflicts.

SUMMER FLING

BLUE JASMINE
RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2013
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
STORY: A fashionable New York City housewife is in a crisis and things are boiling to a head in this the latest comedy from Woody Allen.
PROSPECTS: Allen returns to New York City after having set most of his films in Europe recently. His last two films were among the best of his career.
OBSTACLES: Allen is one of those love him or hate him directors and while he’s had success of late, he still remains very much an acquired taste.
FACTOID: Louis C.K. originally auditioned for the role that Andrew Dice Clay got; Allen liked the audition but felt Louis was too nice for the part so he assigned him another role.

SUMMER CAMP

July 3, 2013

THE LONE RANGER (Disney) is a re-imagining of the classic adventure series with Armie Hammer in the title role and Johnny Depp as Tonto – yes, the focus of the movie will most likely be on the latter although the trailer suggests that there might be more on the Ranger than at first thought – the stunts look pretty incredible on the trailer though.

July 5, 2013

In THE WAY, WAY BACK (Fox Searchlight), a young teen having a miserable summer due to his mom’s overbearing boyfriend and her daughter finds solace in an unexpected friendship with the owner of a small waterpark. With a cast like Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell on board, how can you go wrong?

July 12, 2013

THE HUNT (Magnolia) is opening in limited release but is one to keep an eye out for. Having played at the Florida Film Festival, it concerns a schoolteacher who is accused of the most heinous act imaginable and despite his protestations to the contrary, becomes an outcast in his small town. Read my review here for more details.

July 17, 2013

TURBO (DreamWorks) is an animated feature about a snail that dreams of being a NASCAR racer. If I find out this one is about coming out of your shell, I swear I’ll get violent.

July 19, 2013

THE CONJURING (New Line) is bound to send chills up more than a few spines. Based on a case by actual paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, a family calls for help when they discover the farmhouse they live in is inhabited by a malevolent force. R.I.P.D. (Universal), based on the comic book series of the same name, stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges as a pair of dead lawmen who continue to ply their trade hunting down dead souls that violate the rules and threaten the living. RED 2 (Summit) brings back retired superspies Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich as a portable nuclear device goes missing and the retirees are blamed for it. Not only do they need to find the dang thing to clear their names but they must avert a catastrophe in order to do so. ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Radius) stars Ryan Gosling as a former gangster and kickboxer living in Thailand whose brother is murdered by a corrupt police officer. Knowing that he’ll receive no justice under the law he goes out to get vengeance the old-fashioned way. This new film by Nicholas Winding Refn is opening in limited release.

July 26, 2013

FRUITVALE STATION (Weinstein) was a big hit at Sundance and is based on actual events. A young African-American trying to better his life becomes the victim of a transit cop shooting at an Oakland BART station that turns his community upside-down. This will likewise be opening in limited release.

July 31, 2013

THE SMURFS 2 (Columbia) brings back the little blue buggers back to our world as the evil wizard Gargamel creates copycat creatures called the Naughties. Neil Patrick Harris is in this so it can’t be all bad, can it? It can..

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warner Brothers) Budget: $250 M. Domestic Gross: $448.1M Total: $1.084 B. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Columbia) Budget: $230M. Domestic Gross: $262.0M Total: $752.2M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE WATCH (NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH) (20th Century Fox) Budget: $68M. Domestic Gross: $35.4M Total: $68.3M Verdict: Flop.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $95M. Domestic Gross: $161.3M Total: $877.2M Verdict: Blockbuster.
TED (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $218.8M Total: $549.4M Verdict: Blockbuster.
SAVAGES (Universal) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $47.4M Total: $83.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit) Budget: $33M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $140.5M Verdict: Hit.
KATY PERRY: PART OF ME (InSurge) Budget: $12M Domestic Gross: $25.3M Total: $32.4M Verdict: Made Money.
RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A Domestic Gross: $2.5M Total: $9.1M Verdict: A Likely Hit.

AUGUST

The last month of the summer season tapers off as the heat keeps people at the beach or indoors, but there is almost one or two last gasp blockbusters. Horror movies seem to do really well this month, as the final days of summer are replete with leftover blockbusters from the month’s before and less hyped movies hoping to sneak up on audiences and win the reward of box office gold.

Elysium

 

SUMMER LOVE

ELYSIUM
RELEASE DATE: August 9, 2013
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, Wagner Moura, Talisa Soto, Michael Shanks, Carly Pope
STORY: With humanity divided between the Haves on the heavenly space station Elysium and the Have-Nots on an overpopulated, depleted and dangerous planet Earth, one man must penetrate Elysium’s stringent security in order not only to save himself but those dwelling in misery below.
PROSPECTS: From the director of District 9 comes a much more ambitious sci-fi epic. Damon is a good box office draw and has opened eyes as an action star in the Bourne trilogy.
OBSTACLES: This is the last of a lot of similarly-themed movies coming out this summer and the public maybe burned out on them by August.
FACTOID: Was originally scheduled for March but moved to August so as not to compete with Oz the Great and Powerful.

SUMMER ROMANCE

KICK-ASS 2
RELEASE DATE: August 16, 2013
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison
STORY: Kick-Ass and Hit Girl find themselves joining a new “superhero” team who are opposed by the Red Mist, now reborn as the Mother F*cker who has a team of his own – and it’s going to be a smackdown to end all smackdowns.
PROSPECTS: The first Kick-Ass was successful and the producers are going with the more is better philosophy. An August release seems about perfect – still in the summer but not up against bigger budgeted bullies.
OBSTACLES: Director Matthew Vaughn is gone replaced by Jeff Wadlow. The first film made money but not sure if it was enough to warrant a bigger-budgeted sequel.
FACTOID: It was rumored that Mark Millar, who wrote the original comic book would write the screenplay for the sequel but director Wadlow wound up doing that.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2013
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro, David Wenham, Mark Killeen, Hans Matheson, Jack O’Connell
STORY: The invading Persian force, fresh off of decimating the Spartans in 300 approach Athens and their commander Themistocles must find a way to unite the disparate Greek forces in order to save their culture and their lives.
PROSPECTS: Zach Snyder’s 300 changed the epic forever, and this – based on the sequel to the original graphic novel also by Frank Miller – continues the story.
OBSTACLES: Snyder is involved only as a producer and a writer of one of the versions of the script. Other movies as similarly dependent on green screen CGI haven’t fared as well.
FACTOID: Snyder was originally set to direct but had to bow out due to his commitment to Man of Steel.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2013
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, CCH Pounder, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jared Harris, Kevin Durand
STORY: A teenage girl discovers she is the descendant of a half-angel, half-human race crucial to a war against evil demons.
PROSPECTS: Based on one of the biggest selling young adult fantasy series since Harry Potter, the studio is marketing this carefully.
OBSTACLES: There are a slew of young adult fantasy series carcasses that have thought of being franchise material that have become cinematic roadkill.
FACTOID: Alex Pettyfer was proffered the male lead but turned it down after his experiences on I Am Number Four.

THE WORLD’S END
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2013
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley, Julian Seager
STORY: A group of childhood chums re-create a failed epic pub crawl, hoping to reach The World’s End pub, slowly figuring out that reaching their goal may be the only way to save the world from total annihilation.
PROSPECTS: The third in the trilogy from Pegg, Frost and director Edgar Wright that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz which should get fans of those two cult faves into theaters even in August.
OBSTACLES: Cult favorite is the key phrase here. The above-mentioned films have done well but not super well and in a summer where the apocalypse is upon us (or beyond us) several times over, it may get lost in the shuffle.
FACTOID: Mainly filmed in and around Letchworth Garden City in Hertfordshire, England in actual pubs (renamed for the film).

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
RELEASE DATE: August 7, 2013
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario, Missi Pyle, Nathan Fillion, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Head, Yvette Nicole Brown, Douglas Smith, Mary Birdsong
STORY: The half-God, half-human kids of Percy Jackson’s world must journey into the Bermuda Triangle and retrieve the legendary Golden Fleece.
PROSPECTS: Yet another young adult book series that has sold impressive numbers.
OBSTACLES: The first Percy Jackson film didn’t exactly set the world on fire, box office-wise.
FACTOID: Daddario dyed her hair blonde for the movie even though she was a brunette in the first film; in the books her character is a blonde.

SUMMER FLING

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US
RELEASE DATE: August 30, 2013
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson
STORY: The British pop sensation, discovered on the X-Factor TV program, embark on their sophomore album concert tour and lucky us, we get backstage passes.
PROSPECTS: This is the modern equivalent of Hansen and NKOTB. Screaming adolescent girls will pack the auditoriums.
OBSTACLES: The rest of us will likely stay away.
FACTOID: The band became the first UK band whose debut album entered the Billboard album charts at number one.

SUMMER CAMP

August 2, 2013

2 GUNS (Universal) stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as a couple of operatives from competing bureaus who are forced to go on the run together despite a healthy distrust and a healthier dislike for one another. Based on a graphic novel. EUROPA REPORT (Magnet) is a thought-provoking account of a mission to the Jovian moon to discover the possibility of extraterrestrial life there. Developed with the co-operation and collaboration with NASA, JPL, Space-X and other leaders in the scientific community, this is opening in limited release.

August 9, 2013

DISNEY’S PLANES (Disney) is an off-shoot of the Pixar Cars movies, only set up in the clouds – and not from Pixar but from Disney’s animation arm. Make of that what you will. In WE’RE THE MILLERS (New Line) a small-time pot dealer must put together a fake family in order to smuggle a big score out of Mexico without raising suspicion. Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston and Ed Helms star. LOVELACE (Radius) is the harrowing biography of the iconic porn star who went from a wannabe actress to an anti-porn activist. This opens in limited release.

August 16, 2013

PARANOIA (Relativity) is set in the shadowy world of corporate espionage as a ruthless CEO sends an entry-level drone to spy on a rival which turns into much more than anyone bargained for. Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth headline. THE TO-DO LIST (CBS) stars Aubrey Plaza as an update high school valedictorian who decides to do all the things she missed out on doing in high school before she arrives at the prestigious university she will be attending in the fall. Loosely based on the actual experiences of first-time writer-director Maggie Carey. AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS (IFC), opening in limited release, tells the story of a couple of young outlaws who are hunted down in the desolate hill country of Texas. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara star. AUSTENLAND (Sony Classics) stars Keri Russell as a Jane Austen-obsessed New York who goes to a resort that caters to women who have similar fantasies and finds that the reality is a lot different than the fantasy. This comedy is also opening in limited release. HAUTE CUISINE (Weinstein) is loosely based on the true story of French Prime Minister Francois Mitterand’s personal chef and chronicles her struggles to establish herself in a kitchen whose politics are as vicious as France’s own. Again, this will be opening in limited theatrical release.

August 23, 2013

YOU’RE NEXT (Lionsgate) turns the conventions of the home invasion horror film on its ear as ruthless masked killers invading a family reunion didn’t count on one of the guests being an even more ruthless and creative killer than they. THE COLONY (RLJ), opening in limited release, is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which one of the last human outposts remaining on a planet overrun by ice and cold loses contact with the others.

August 28, 2013

CLOSED CIRCUIT (Focus) stars Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall as two ex-lovers who parted on an acrimonious note who are forced to work together as defense attorneys on a high-profile terrorism trial.

August 30, 2013

In GETAWAY (Warner Brothers) a race car driver is forced to use his skills to fulfill a series of tasks given to him by an unseen voice monitoring his every move through a dash-mounted camera – or else his kidnapped wife may die. SATANIC (Weinstein) stars Haley Bennett as a college student staying on campus during the Thanksgiving holidays becoming the target for a vicious and sadistic gang.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

TOTAL RECALL (Columbia) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $58.9M Total: $198.5M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE EXPENDABLES 2 (Lionsgate) Budget: $100M. Domestic Gross: $85.0M Total: $300.4M Verdict: Hit.
FRIGHT NIGHT 3D (DreamWorks) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $18.3M Total: $41.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BOURNE LEGACY (Universal) Budget: $125M. Domestic Gross: $113.2M Total: $276.1M Verdict: Made Money.
THE APPARITION (Warner Brothers) Budget: $17M. Domestic Gross: $4.9M Total: $9.6M Verdict: Flop.
PARANORMAN (Focus) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $56.0M Total: $107.1M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE CAMPAIGN (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $86.9M Total: $104.9M Verdict: Probably Profitable.
PREMIUM RUSH (Columbia) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $20.3M Total: $31.1M Verdict: Flop.
SPARKLE (Tri-Star) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $24.4M Total: $24.4M Verdict: Broke Even.
LAWLESS (Weinstein) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $37.4M Total: $53.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
HIT AND RUN (Open Road) Budget: $2M. Domestic Gross: $13.8M Total: $14.5M Verdict: Hit.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (20th Century Fox) Budget: $22M. Domestic Gross: $49.0M Total: $77.1M Verdict: Hit.
HOPE SPRINGS (Columbia) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $63.5M Total: $114.3M Verdict: Hit.
THE POSSESSION (Lionsgate) Budget: $14M. Domestic Gross: $49.1M Total: $85.5M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (Disney) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $51.9M Total: $51.9M Verdict: Broke Even.

While this year doesn’t look to be the same kind of slam dunk that last summer was, there is still a lot of summer blockbuster goodness to look forward to. For some film buffs, it is their favorite time of year as one big potential hit comes out after another. Still, when the dog days of August herald the rapid approach of September, school and fall, that doesn’t mean the end of movies to look forward to. We’ve still got another visit to Middle Earth in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the girl power sequel The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the unexpected and welcome return of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman: The Legend Continues. The Marvel cinematic universe Phase 2 continues with Thor: The Dark World while Tom Clancy’s most memorable character returns in Jack Ryan. We’ll also see Vin Diesel get serious in Riddick, the return of comics noir in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and a reimagining of an American classic in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Now, while I’m sure you’re already planning your moviegoing schedule for the summer, please do keep in mind as always that NO schedule is set in stone and that studios are wont to move movies to new dates without notice, particularly the farther out they are. There will be a good number of movies in this preview that will be bumped out to the fall or further and some may be removed from the schedule completely (anyone ever find out what happened to 7500?) without explanation. Chances are within a week of this being posted there will already have been some changes. However, that shouldn’t stop you from making plans to see some or even many of the big summer flicks. After all, few things are more fun than sitting in a cool air-conditioned movie theater on a hot summer day, popcorn and ice cold soda in hand, being amazed by eye-popping special effects, unbelievably crazy stunts or amused by big summer comedy laughs. It’s all there waiting for you – you just have to get out and go. I know I will be, and will continue to review the big films, write up weekly previews and of course the monthly Four-Warned series that will give you a better idea of what’s opening across the land. See you at the multiplex!

Florida Film Festival 2013


Florida Film Festival 2013

The Florida Film Festival will be returning from April 5 through April 14. As in years past, Cinema365 is proud to cover our local film festival and this year will be bigger and better than any year before, with 173 features and short films taking up screen time. Voted one of the 50 best film festivals in the world, it’s different than the industry shmoozefests that are Sundance, Tribeca and TIFF. Those are places where filmmakers go to make a deal. FFF is where they go to mingle with the audience. There is an intimate feel that is missing from some film festivals where there is so much going on that you’re exhausted from day one. There is a more leisurely pace here but even so by the 14th you may well be reaching your limit.

The guest of honor this year is legendary Hollywood actress Tippi Hedren who will be honored with a screening of her classic film The Birds. She’ll be on hand to answer qustions, some of which hopefully will be about her new film Free Samples which will also be playing at the festival. These events always sell out so you won’t want to wait too long before getting your ticket. Also attending the festival will be renowned stuntwoman/actress Zoe Bell who will be on hand for a screening of Deathproof, the Quentin Tarantino-directed half of Grindhouse.  She’s done some of the most amazing stunts of the past decade so you won’t want to miss that either. Finally for those of a more romantic bent, the Festival will have Sunday brunch on the 14th with a screening of one of my all-time favorites The Princess Bride with star Cary Elwes in attendence. This promises to be an unforgettable event and, like the other celebrity appearances, is likely to sell out early.

But a film festival is all about, well, films and as usual there are a plethora of exciting entries at this year’s festival. While I’m not going to preview them all here, I will give you some films that I think are worth looking out for. The opening night slot is always a big deal at any film festival and the FFF is no different. This year the honor goes to Twenty Feet from Stardom, an acclaimed documentary that drew raves at Sundance earlier this year. For those who love classic rock and roll, the film focuses on the backup singers who share the stage and recording studio with some of the biggest stars and on the biggest hits of all time. It’s an amazing get up and dance kind of movie that is bound to have opening nighters boogaloo-ing in the aisles. Opening night is another event that sells out early so you’ll want to order your ticets as soon as you can.

Unfinished Song stars Terrence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave in a film that reminds me a little bit of Young @ Heart, about a grumpy senior whose life is transformed by singing in a chorus. Lore takes place at the end of World War II in occupied Germany when a group of children whose parents were arrested as Nazis try to make their way across the country to their grandmother’s. Renoir is the story of the love triangle between the great Impressionist, his son and his model slash muse. It looks achingly beautiful. Mud stars Matthew McConaughey , Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepard in a thriller about a couple of kids who befriend a man on the run from the law, who is haunted by the woman who may have inspired him to do wrong.

V/H/S 2 is the sequel to the hit indie horror anthology and should be packing them in at midnight showings. So too should Cockneys vs. Zombies, a East End-set zombie flick that looks to be a worthy successor to Shaun of the Dead with a wicked sense of humor that had preview audiences laughing til they screamed. Starbuck is a French-Canadian film about a man who is ready to be a father of his girlfriend’s child although she is none too certain about his paternal skills. Matters aren’t helped when it is discovered that as a repeated sperm donor back in the day he had wound up fathering over 500 children. I’m sure his tie collection will be legendary.

SOMM is a food documentary chronicling the difficult process of becoming certified as a master sommelier. In the music realm Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me and AKA Doc Pomus look back at legendary figures in classic rock and roll while Bad Brains: A Band in DC looks at one of the most influential punk bands of all time.

The narrative competition films have some real promising entries this year, with The Forgotten Kingdom following a young man’s journey to reconnect with his family in Leostho, Putzel which is a different kind of romantic comedy (I know a lot of rom-coms claim that but this one really looks like the real deal), The History of Future Folk which has the daft premise of an alien invasion which goes awry when the aliens decide to become folksingers, All the Light in the Sky in the meantime follows an aging actress who is watching her indie career dwindle as younger actresses nab the roles that once went to her. Nancy, Please is a terrifying thriller about the roommate from Hell who goes to extreme lengths to reclaim the book she left behind and Be Good which observes new parents adopting to their changing roles.

The documentary competition is equally impressive with Year of the Living Dead which looks back on the lasting impact of George A. Romero’s legendary Night of the Living Dead while Magical Universe explores the bizaare world of artist Al Carbee’s Barbie-centric art. Shepard and Dark explores the unique and moving friendship (mostly expressed through correspondence) between actor/playwright Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark who was at one time married to the mother of Shepard’s wife. Informant traces the path of Brandon Darby from respected activist to FBI informant while Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story traces the career of revolutionary children’s book illustrator Tomi Ungerer.

And that’s just scratching the surface. Films like 8 1/2, Sleeper, The Sting and Pulp Fiction will also be screened as well as a plethora of foreign films, short films, documentaries, narrative features, family films and animated shorts. Individual tickets will go on sale on March 17th (this Sunday) although you can still buy passes and packages of five, ten and twenty vouchers which can be redeemed for individual films right now. For more details on the festival, ticket purchase information and directions to the festival venues, click on the logo above which will take you right to the Festival website. That same logo will appear on all festival film reviews even after the festival is over.

It should be noted that nearly every year since I started attending this event my number one movie on the year-end countdown has played at the Festival. Some of the films that have played here have gone on to commercial success (The Blair Witch Project) or Oscar nominations (Winter’s Bone). While there are no guarantees, I can tell you that this is one of the best-curated festivals that I’m aware of and the overall quality of the films that play it are nothing short of spectacular.

Enzian president Henry Maldonado liked the Festival to a gathering of friends, not unlike a reunion and he’s right. The atmosphere at the Festival is like none other I’ve experienced. Part of that is due to the bucolic scenery at the Enzian itself (although the atmosphere at the neighboring Regal multiplex in Winter Park Village where many of the screenings take place is no less idyllic) but most of the credit goes to the staff, volunteers and the attendees themselves. This is the kind of thing that loses something in the translation but once experienced for yourself will hook you for life. Even if I were to move out of the Orlando area, I’d come back every year for the FFF. I hope I’ll see some of my Orlando-area readers at the Festival; those who can travel to come see it should make the effort to do so. This is no theme park but if you’re a movie buff, this is so much better.