Unforgettable (2017)


There’s something about a catfight men find irresistible.

(2017) Thriller (Warner Brothers) Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults, Isabella Kai Rice, Alex Quijano, Sarah Burns, Whitney Cummings, Simon Kassianides, Robert Ray Wisdom, Cheryl Ladd, Stephanie Escajeda, Kincaid Walker, Aline Elasmar, Jayson Blair, Lauren Rose Lewis, Robin Hardy, Mitch Silpa, Alex Staggs, Scott Beehner, Michelle Mehta, Leslie A. Hughes. Directed by Denise Di Novi

 

We humans are obsessed with love. So much has been written about it and there are so may aphorisms that exist about it. For example, it is said that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. That’s pretty much true but I suppose that it might not be if your ex is completely out of their minds.

Things are looking up for Julia Banks (Dawson). Getting out of an abusive relationship which ended with her ex (Kassianides) being jailed (although he is due to be released soon) she has gotten into a relationship with a buff divorcee named David Connover (Stults) who has an adorable daughter named Lily (Rice) and is working to make his microbrewery into a big success. Engaged to be married, she is moving to the small town where he lives leaving the big city editorial job and her dear friend Ali (Cummings). Things are looking rosy for Julia.

That is, until she meets David’s ex Tessa (Heigl). To say she is tightly wound is like saying the Great Wall of China has a few bricks in it. She clearly wants her husband back as well as the life she had with him but David is done with her and has moved on. At first it feels like Tessa is making an attempt to be civil to Julia but soon nagging little annoyances start to turn into bigger things, like missing wedding rings, flower deliveries from Julia’s ex, Lily getting lost at a carnival – and then things turn full-blown crazy.

Tessa is going to get David back by any means necessary and nobody is going to keep her from her perfect life. As the stakes get higher, Julia realizes she is dealing with someone who has a deep psychosis and in order to protect herself and those she loves she has going to have to jump aboard the crazy train with Tessa and have it out with her once and for all.

If this sounds a bit like a Lifetime movie, it certainly feels like one at times – albeit one with better production values and a better cast. Heigl, known more for frothy romantic comedies, brings her A game here, allowing herself to go big which is what a movie like this needs. One must give her kudos for giving her all for a script that really doesn’t have a lot going for it.

Cliches abound here, from the housewife who turns out to have some mad hacking skills to the climactic catfight. Anyone who has watched a few of these crazy ex-wife thrillers will be able to pretty much figure out what’s going on from the opening scene which has Julia sitting in a police interrogation room trying to explain the dead body in her home which was probably not a good idea from a screenwriting perspective – it gives too much away right from the beginning.

There is a fairly tawdry scene in which David and Julia get busy in a public bathroom while Tessa, alone in her own home, goes the self-love route even as she sexts with one of the characters in the film as part of her plan to get Julia out of the picture. From a prurient point of view it’s pretty close to softcore Skinamax material so those who find that sort of thing distasteful should be forewarned.

Despite Heigl’s delightfully trashy performance, it’s really hard to recommend this wholeheartedly. Certainly there is a guilty pleasure element to it and I admit to liking it much more a few months after seeing it than I did immediately after watching it, but the characters are so poorly written and the execution shows little imagination. Based on Heigl alone, I can give it a mild recommendation particularly for those who like their potbroilers with a dash of sex and a minimum of mental effort. For everyone else, I’m sure you have better things to do.

REASONS TO GO: Heigl does some solid work in the batshit crazy ex role.
REASONS TO STAY: This is pretty much as predictable as it gets
FAMILY VALUES: There is a bit of sexuality and brief partial nudity, some foul language and some violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Although Di Novi has been a producer for quite awhile working with (among others) Tim Burton, this is her first go-round in the director’s chair.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/20/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 26% positive reviews. Metacritic: 45/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Hand That Rocks the Cradle
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT: Family Life

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New Releases for the Week of April 21, 2017


UNFORGETTABLE

(Warner Brothers) Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults, Cheryl Ladd, Whitney Cummings, Jayson Blair, Robert Wisdom, Isabella Kai Rice. Directed by Denise Di Novi

Julia thinks she’s finally found the happiness that has eluded her when she gets engaged to David. She adores his daughter from his first marriage (he’s recently divorced) and this is the opportunity to put her own troubled past behind her. Unfortunately she didn’t plan on Tessa, the first wife, to be pathologically possessive and stop at nothing to get rid of Julia and resume her place as David’s wife and Lilly’s mother.

See the trailer, clips, interviews and B-roll video here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Wide Release

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

Born in China

(DisneyNature) John Krasinski (narrator). The latest in Disney’s series of nature documentaries takes us to China, one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes on Earth. There we’ll follow a family of giant pandas, of golden snub-nosed monkeys and rare and elusive snow leopards. Some of the footage displays behaviors never before caught on film. As is customary, Disney will make a donation to a wildlife cause (in this case the World Wildlife Fund) for every ticket sold the first week of release.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Nature Documentary
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: G

Free Fire

(A24) Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Sam Riley, Cillian Murphy. An arms deal goes horribly wrong as a group of gun smugglers are selling a shipment to a gang when shots are fired. Complete pandemonium ensues as nobody seems to know who’s shooting at who and what the heck is actually going on. Surviving this night is going to be no easy task.

See the trailer, clips, promos and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references and drug use)

Grow House

(Rocky Mountain) Malcolm McDowell, Snoop Dogg, DeRay Davis, Lil Duval. A couple of stoners who are deeply in debt figure out that one way to get rich quick is to sell weed to legal dispensaries. Unfortunately for them, while they are awesome at smoking the stuff, it’s a whole other thing to grow it.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Stoner Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Loew’s Universal Cineplex, AMC West Oaks, Cobb Plaza Cinema Café, Fashion Square Premiere Cinema, Regal Oviedo Mall, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal Waterford Lakes, UA Seminole Mall

Rating: R (for drug use and language throughout, including some sexual references)

The Lost City of Z

(Bleecker Street) Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland. Percy Fawcett was a British military man and cartographer near the turn of the 20th century who was sent to map the Amazon region to help settle a border dispute between Bolivia and Brazil. Instead he discovered evidence of a vast advanced civilization that once dwelled there and a legendary city he called Z. Ridiculed by the scientific community, he made attempt after attempt to find the lost city until he and his son disappeared on an expedition in 1925. The movie is based on a book written on the explorer and a review for it will appear on Cinema365 tomorrow.

See the trailer, clips and an interview here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Adventure
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace, Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language and some nudity)

Phoenix Forgotten

(Cinelou) Florence Hartigan, Luke Spencer Roberts, Chelsea Lopez, Justin Matthews. The incident known as the Phoenix Lights occurred on March 13, 1997 and was witnessed by thousands of residents and is often pointed to by UFO enthusiasts as proof positive of the existence of extraterrestrial life visiting this planet. This movie is based on those events.

See the trailer, featurettes and a clip here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Found Footage Sci-Fi Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for terror, peril and some language)

The Promise

(Open Road) Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Shohreh Aghdashloo. Against the backdrop of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian genocide, an Armenian doctor falls in love with a woman of Armenian descent who already has a boyfriend – a famous American journalist out to expose the truth of the genocide to the world.

See the trailer and clips here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Historical Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality)

Their Finest

(STX) Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Bill Nighy, Jack Huston. During the Second World War the British Ministry of Information is tasked with producing films designed to lift the spirits of that war-battered nation. With most of the available men in the armed forces, the desperate ministry brings aboard a woman to add her light touch into the scripts. She becomes enamored of a producer from an entirely different social strata and soon discovers that the camaraderie behind the camera is at least as intense as that in front of it.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for some language and a scene of sexuality)

2017 Preview


2017 Preview

For the most part, 2016 was a very fruitful year for the studios. Ticket sales set records this year, although ticket prices are also up and attendance a little down. However records are also being generated for VOD and other home cinema sales, so people are watching movies in one form or another more than ever.

Disney has already set a studio box office record even before three of their major year-end releases had come out; one has to look at their box office offerings like Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book and Zootopia not to mention the overlap from Star Wars: The Force Awakens which kept them rolling in it at the beginning of the year, with Doctor Strange, Moana and Rogue One keeping the bean counters happy at year’s end. Fox had a big year as well, with The Revenant, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Deadpool bringing in big numbers; Universal countered with The Secret Life of Pets, Jason Bourne and Warcraft. Warner Brothers got box office success from their DC properties Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad as well as The Legend of Tarzan and The Conjuring 2 bringing in the bacon. Sony bounced back from an off year with The Angry Birds Movie and Ghostbusters while The Mermaid set box office records in Asia. Lionsgate/Summit had success with Now You See Me 2 while Paramount could crow about Star Trek Beyond and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

There are plenty of reasons to look forward to 2017 cinematically; Marvel and DC will continue to crank out movies all year long (seven between the two competing comic book companies) and there will be plenty of sequels. reboots and returns to make plenty of fanboys quiver with delight. We’ll get to all of that in just a moment.

As usual, Cinema365 will be covering our local Florida Film Festival in April of 2017 but on top of that we have been covering out of town festivals as well, and we’re hoping that will continue throughout the year. We’re committed here to presenting not just the big budget Hollywood spectaculars but also the independent movies, foreign films and microbudget indies that range from “why did I bother” to “absolutely delightful” to even life changing from time to time. Some of our top ten movies will be coming from sources that have nothing to do with Hollywood and that will likely continue to be the case next year.

Our previews will continue to run, including our weekly new release preview which details what’s opening in the Orlando area (where Cinema365 currently calls home), Pick of the Litter which details our choices for movies to look out for every month, to our Coming Soon pages which let you know what’s on the horizon, and of course our quarterly preview specials of which this is the first of 2017. We’ve also instituted mini-reviews for movies we haven’t had time to write full reviews for, which will hopefully start to make a dent in the backlog of movies we’ve seen over the past few years but simply haven’t had the bandwidth to get to. We’re adding coverage of direct-to-streaming films for services like Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo and Hulu since so many of our readers see the bulk of their movies in that medium.

But enough of the appetizer; it’s time to get to the meat of the matter. Dive on in to the 2017 preview and hopefully like what you see here and we’ll look for you at the multiplex in 2017!

JANUARY

Generally the year begins with movies who did their Oscar qualifying run in New York and L.A. in 2016 finally making it out to the rest of the country and there are some possible dandies there, including Ben Affleck’s most recent stint in the director’s chair, a biopic of a fast food giant and a look at the unsung heroes of the space program. In addition, you can check out the return of an extreme superspy, the final entry in a videogame film franchise and what could be M. Night Shyamalan’s most twisted film yet.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

MUST- SEE

XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2017
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Donny Wen, Tony Jaa, Rory McCann, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone
GENRE: Spy Action
STORY: Extreme athlete, YouTube star and retired spy Cage finds himself forced back into the game when a ruthless counterpart goes after a megaweapon known only as Pandora’s Box. Cage will have to assemble a new team of thrill seeker Type-A sorts to save the day and look dope while doing it.
PROSPECTS: Not a lot of competition in 2017 month number one in turns of action so those who are tired of Rogue One and looking for something new might be ready to embrace this.
OBSTACLES: The original xXx was released 15 years ago (we won’t even mention the abortion of a sequel) and the concept might well have seen its time come and go.
FACTOID: The first two films in the series were distributed by Columbia but the franchise has now moved over to Paramount.

SHOULD-SEE

A MONSTER CALLS

RELEASE DATE: January 6, 2017
STUDIO: Focus
STARRING: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Ben Moor, James Melville, Jennifer Lim, Liam Neeson (voice)
GENRE: Fantasy
STORY: A young boy dealing with the serious illness of his mother and ongoing bullying at his school escapes into a world of fantasy and monsters that help him face his fears, deal with loss and find his faith.
PROSPECTS: Although this might be a bit heavy for family viewing, the award-winning book the movie is based on has helped thousands of children deal with difficulties in their own lives and hopefully the movie will do the same.
OBSTACLES: As I said, a bit heavy for family viewing and without a few Oscar nominations to buoy its profile it might just get lost in the end-of-the-year awards season deluge.
FACTOID: The newest Spider-Man, Tom Holland (who previously worked with director J.A. Bayona in The Impossible) was the stand-in for the monster.

LIVE BY NIGHT

RELEASE DATE: January 13, 2017
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Scott Eastwood, Elle Fanning, Anthony Michael Hall, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Titus Welliver, Chris Cooper
GENRE: Crime Drama
STORY: An ambitious Boston mobster during Prohibition commits a cardinal sin in the underworld; he steals the money and the moll of his boss. This propels the young outlaw out of New England and into Tampa’s steamy rum-running underworld where he might get the revenge he craves.
PROSPECTS: Affleck’s last two films were both big hits and Oscar contenders.
OBSTACLES: The early reviews for this one have been less than enthusiastic.
FACTOID: This is the second time Affleck has directed a movie based on a Dennis Lehane novel (the first was Gone Baby Gone).

SPLIT

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2017
STUDIO: Universal/Blumhouse
STARRING: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Kim Director, Brad William Henke, Jessica Sula, Betty Buckley
GENRE: Horror
STORY: A man suffering from multiple personalities – 23 distinct ones that he has revealed to his trusted psychiatrist – is compelled to abduct three teenage girls as the barriers between his personalities begins to shatter, revealing a horrifying 24th personality.
PROSPECTS: Director M. Night Shyamalan delivered the top grossing horror movie of 2015 the last time out. The studio has been giving his latest some heavy support.
OBSTACLES: It’s unclear if Shyamalan has redeemed himself after a string of critically and commercially panned movies dropped him from fan favorite director status.
FACTOID: This is the second time McAvoy has played someone with multiple personalities – the first time was in 2013’s Filth.

RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER

RELEASE DATE: January 27, 2017
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Ruby Rose, Iain Glen, Shawn Roberts, William Levy, Eoin Macken, Rola, Jun-ki Lee, Ever Gabo Anderson
GENRE: Horror
STORY: With Alice having survived what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead, she must go to where it all began – the Hive in Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is planning a final assault on the survivors of the Apocalypse. One way or another, it all ends here.
PROSPECTS: This is the final installment of the most successful film franchise based on a video game ever. This is one of the few video game to film adaptations that has consistently worked.
OBSTACLES: The movie has been delayed a couple of times and pushed into the no man’s land of the movie schedule.
FACTOID: Milla Jovovich is the only actor to appear in every film of the Resident Evil franchise.

COULD-SEE

RED TURTLE

RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2017
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING:
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: A castaway is stranded on an island populated only by turtles, crabs and birds.
PROSPECTS: Has received massive acclaim around the world due to its incredible animated imagery and compelling story.
OBSTACLES: An animated film without any dialogue means no big stars to bring in audiences…
FACTOID: This is the first film produced by Studio Ghibli that was not made in Japan.

MIGHT-SEE

January 6, 2017

HIDDEN FIGURES (20th Century Fox) recently got a boost with some Golden Globe nominations; fresh off of an Oscar qualifying run, the film opens wide the first week of January, telling the story of three African-American women who played an important role in the space race at a time when their color got them excluded from opportunity and their gender did the same. UNDERWORLD BLOOD WARS (Screen Gems) is the latest chapter in the war between the vampires and the werewolves; once again it features Kate Beckinsale in the role of a remorseless vampire caught between saving the human race and fighting the evil Lycans.

January 13, 2017

Opening in limited release, THE BOOK OF LOVE (Freestyle/Electric) features Jason Sudeikis as an introverted architect befriended by a spunky teenage girl. Together they help complete the other with the architect designing a raft that will help the teen fulfill her lifelong dream. THE BYE-BYE MAN (STX Entertainment) is a kind of a boogie man who if you think about him possesses you to do unspeakable acts of brutality; the problem is you’re thinking about him now. Just like The Game, no? THE COMEDIAN (Sony Classic) which is opening in limited release stars Robert De Niro as an aging stand-up comic who just when he thought his career was finished meets a woman who helps him find himself in surprising ways. MONSTER TRUCKS (Paramount) is a family film about a strange creature that is all about speed that is accidentally welded into a made-from-scratch truck. PATRIOT’S DAY (CBS) is the third pairing of director Peter Berg and star Mark Wahlberg in a true life drama, this one about the Boston Marathon bombing. It will have already opened in New York, Los Angeles and Boston for an Oscar qualifying run. SLEEPLESS (Open Road) stars Jamie Foxx as a corrupt cop desperately fighting to get his son back from the mobsters he’s stolen from.

January 20, 2017

Also expanding after an Oscar qualifying run, 20TH CENTURY WOMEN (A24) is set in the 70s and follows a mother and daughter who are navigating the sexual turmoil of the times. THE FOUNDER (Weinstein) is the story of Ray Kroc, the former CEO of McDonald’s who took a regional burger joint and turned it into a multi-billion dollar franchise without a whole lot of regard for those who stood in his way. Michael Keaton stars in the title role.

January 27, 2017

A DOG’S PURPOSE (Universal) is a touching family film following a loyal, loving dog through several incarnations, all of whom show how much more we rely on our dogs than they rely on their humans. GOLD (Dimension) stars Matthew McConaughey as a modern-day prospector whose dogged search for the mother lode pays off – but keeping his hard-earned find from corporate piranhas is even harder than finding it in the first place.

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 HATEFUL EIGHT (Weinstein) Budget: $44 Million. Domestic Gross: $54.1M Total: $155.8M Verdict: Hit.
THE REVENANT (20th Century Fox) Budget: $135M. Domestic Gross: $183.6M Total: $533.05M Verdict: Big Hit.
RIDE ALONG 2 (Universal) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $90.9M Total: $124.3M Verdict: Hit.
KUNG FU PANDA 3 (DreamWorks/Fox) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $143.5M Total: $519.9M Verdict: Hit.
THE FINEST HOURS (Disney) Budget: $80M. Domestic Gross: $27.6M Total: $52.1M Verdict: Flop.
THE FOREST (Focus) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $26.6M Total: $37.6M Verdict: Hit.
THE 5TH WAVE (Columbia) Budget: $38M. Domestic Gross: $34.9M Total: $109.9 Verdict: Made Money.
13 HOURS (Paramount) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $52.9M Total: $69.4 Verdict: Lost Money.
THE BOY (STX) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $35.8M Total: $64.2 Verdict: Big Hit.
JANE GOT A GUN (Weinstein) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $1.5M Total: $3.0 Verdict: Flop.
DIRTY GRANDPA (Lionsgate) Budget: $11.5M. Domestic Gross: $35.6M Total: $94.1 Verdict: Big Hit.
NORM OF THE NORTH (Lionsgate) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $17.1M Total: $27.4 Verdict: Lost Money.

FEBRUARY

February as far as 2017 is concerned is the year of the rescheduled; no less than eight of the movies scheduled for release in the shortest month of the year as of this writing were previously scheduled before then. Hopefully some of them will prove worth the wait, as we’ll be seeing a version of a young adult novel about a boy born on Mars falling in love with an Earth-born girl, the latest from fan favorite director Gore Verbinski, the second installment of a franchise based on a hit mommy porn novel series, Chinese master director Zhang Yimou’s latest English-language film and the much-delayed reboot of a hit J-horror franchise.

The Great Wall

MUST- SEE

THE GREAT WALL

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2017
STUDIO: Legendary/Universal
STARRING: Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal, Tian Jing, Numan Acar, Eddie Peng, Han Lu, Kenny Lin
GENRE: Action
STORY: The Great Wall of China stretches 5500 miles long and took 1700 years to build. An elite fighting force makes a stand on that wall with the survival of humanity on the line against a foe that may not be beatable.
PROSPECTS: Director Zhang Yimou is one of the most visually innovative directors to come out of China. Given the resources of a major Hollywood studio, there’s no telling what he’ll come up with.
OBSTACLES: There has been a great deal of backlash regarding the casting of Damon in what is essentially a Chinese story.
FACTOID: This is the most expensive film ever made by Chinese filmmakers.

SHOULD-SEE

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2017
STUDIO: Lionsgate
STARRING: Keanu Reeves, Ruby Rose, Bridget Moynihan, Ian McShane, Peter Stormare, Thomas Sadoski, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne, Common
GENRE: Action
STORY: Former hitman John Wick returns in another tale of mayhem.
PROSPECTS: The first movie has been hailed as one of the best action films of recent years.
OBSTACLES: The story has been kept under wraps, which might indicate that the filmmakers are much more concerned about the action than the story – not a good sign.
FACTOID: This will be the first time that Reeves and Fishburne have worked together since the Matrix trilogy concluded with The Matrix Revolutions in 2003.

THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE

RELEASE DATE: February 10, 2017
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Will Arnett, Jenny Slate, Zach Galifianakis, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Mariah Carey, Billy Dee Williams
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: The Dark Knight has been a lone wolf for a very long time but with the Joker’s latest bid to take over Gotham succeeding, the Caped Crusader may need to admit he needs some help – and learn to lighten up.
PROSPECTS: Batman was one of the big reasons that The LEGO Movie was a huge box office success.
OBSTACLES: Most of the creative team behind The LEGO Movie is not involved with this spin-off.
FACTOID: Williams, who plays Two-Face the alter ego of DA Harvey Dent, also played Dent in Tim Burton’s original Batman.

A CURE FOR WELLNESS

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2017
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs, Mia Goth, Celia Imrie, Carl Lumbly, Susanne Wuest, Adrian Schiller, Lisa Banes
GENRE: Thriller
STORY: An ambitious young executive is sent to fetch his company’s CEO from a “wellness resort” in the Alps and finds himself caught up in a mystery of illness, cures and life and death.
PROSPECTS: Director Gore Verbinski was responsible for launching the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring franchises.
OBSTACLES: The movie has been flying under the radar with much less buzz than one would hope.
FACTOID: The movie was filmed at Castle Hohenzollern in the German Alps.

COULD-SEE

A UNITED KINGDOM

RELEASE DATE: February 17, 2017
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: The King of Botswana falls in love with a white London office worker and intends to marry her. South Africa, at the time just initiating its policy of apartheid, is infuriated at the thought of a biracial couple ruling an adjacent country and puts pressure on England to thwart the marriage, threatening an invasion of the much smaller Botswana if the couple actually marries.
PROSPECTS: Came out of the Toronto Film Festival as one of the most applauded films of the event.  David Oyelowo has been delivering some powerful performances as of late.
OBSTACLES: There may be little American interest in events of the UK.
FACTOID: The scenes in the couple’s home were filmed in the actual home that they lived in.

MIGHT-SEE

February 5, 2017

COLLIDE (Open Road) is a crime thriller about a young hustler caught in the middle of a power struggle between rival mob bosses (played by Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley!) with his girlfriend’s life hanging in the balance. RINGS (Paramount) reboots the iconic horror franchise, itself based on a Japanese horror classic. Having been rescheduled several times, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the franchise. THE SPACE BETWEEN US (STX) is a young adult adventure in which the first human born on Mars – now a teenage boy – falls in love with a girl on Earth. Wanting to find his father (his mother died without telling him his identity), he heads to the planet his species originated on to try and find answers although the gravity and other factors may kill him before he finds any.

February 10, 2017

FIFTY SHADES DARKER (Universal) continues the cinematic adaptations of the “mommy porn” series by E.L. James.

February 17, 2017

FIST FIGHT (New Line) features Ice Cube and Charlie Day as a couple of teachers who get into an altercation which is to be resolved in an after school fight, much to the consternation of one of the two of them. PATIENT ZERO (Screen Gems) is a horror film about a pandemic that infects the majority of humans and turns them into vicious, intelligent killers. One man, who alone can communicate with the infected, may hold the key to the survival of the species.

February 24, 2017

GET OUT (Blumhouse/Universal) comes to us from Jordan Peele, one half of the duo of Key and Peele; in it a young African-American man visits the parents of his white girlfriend and discovers that a very sinister and nasty truth hides beneath their veneer of civility and acceptance. ROCK DOG (Summit) is an animated feature about a Tibetan dog who wants to be more than his village has available for him – he wants to be a rock and roll star. Opening in limited release, TULIP FEVER (Weinstein) stars Alicia Vikander as a woman trapped in an arranged marriage who finds passion with a young artist (Dane DeHaan) hired to paint her portrait during the tulip speculation madness of the 17th century.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

DEADPOOL (20th Century Fox) Budget: $58 Million. Domestic Gross: $363.1M Total: $782.6M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HAIL, CAESAR (Universal) Budget: $22M. Domestic Gross: $30.1M Total: $63.2M Verdict: Made Money.
ZOOLANDER 2 (Paramount) Budget: $56M. Domestic Gross: $28.9M Total: $56.0M Verdict: Flop.
GODS OF EGYPT (Summit) Budget: $140M. Domestic Gross: $31, 2M.Total: $150.7M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE WITCH (A24) Budget: $3M. Domestic Gross: $25.1M Total: $40.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
HOW TO BE SINGLE (New Line) Budget: $38M. Domestic Gross: $46.8M Total: $112.3M Verdict: Hit.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (Screen Gems) Budget: $28M. Domestic Gross: $10.9M Total: $16.4M Verdict: Flop.
RACE (Focus) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $19.1M Total: $25.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
RISEN (Columbia) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $36.9M Total: $46.1M Verdict: Made Money.
EDDIE THE EAGLE (20th Century Fox) Budget: $23M. Domestic Gross: $15.8M Total: $46.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
TRIPLE NINE (Open Road) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $12.6M Total: $23.1M Verdict: Lost Money.

MARCH

As the spring film season begins, a few summer-like blockbusters begin to creep into the line-up this month, including the return of one of Hollywood’s iconic monsters, the final appearance of an actor in the role that broke him into the big time, the latest live action version of a Disney animated classic, an iconic anime getting a live action treatment and the return of a children’s television action classic now gone adult big time.

Kong: Skull Island

MUST- SEE

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2017
STUDIO: Warner Brothers/Legendary
STARRING: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Tian Jing
GENRE: Horror
STORY: An expedition to an uncharted Pacific island brings to light gigantic creatures, horrors from the dawn of time and a secret that will forever change our understanding of our place in the food chain.
PROSPECTS: Part of a new shared universe that includes the Pacific Rim and Godzilla franchises, the spectacle of a new Kong after Peter Jackson’s version will modernize the franchise.
OBSTACLES: Perhaps some franchises shouldn’t be modernized.
FACTOID: While the appearance of Kong in this version is based on the look of the 1933 version, the new one will stand approximately 100 feet tall – the tallest American version of Kong ever.

SHOULD-SEE

LOGAN

RELEASE DATE: March 3, 2017
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Doris Morgado, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Elise Neal, Eriq La Salle
GENRE: Superhero
STORY: A scarred and aging Wolverine is brought out of retirement by Professor X, who pleads with the former X-Man to protect a young female clone who may be the key to the survival of mutants.
PROSPECTS: Jackman has announced this will be his final go-round with the adamantium claws which will bring the fanboys out in force.
OBSTACLES: Neither of the Wolverine solo films thus far have been particularly memorable.
FACTOID: Stewart has also announced that this will be his final appearance as Professor X.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2017
STUDIO: Disney
STARRING: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Luke Evans, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen
GENRE: Family
STORY: A live-action version of the beloved fairy tale about plucky Belle, who willingly surrenders herself in exchange for the freedom of her father, to live in a cursed castle with a hideous beast and where the objects are all alive.
PROSPECTS: The animated and Broadway versions of this Disney classic have been licenses to print money; there’s no reason to believe this won’t be more of the same.
OBSTACLES: This will likely get unfavorable comparisons to the animated version.
FACTOID: Alan Mencken, who wrote the music for the animated version, returns to score the new movie as well as co-write some songs with famed lyricist Tim Rice.

POWER RANGERS

RELEASE DATE: March 24, 2017
STUDIO: Lionsgate/Saban
STARRING: Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston, Bill Hader, Naomi Scott, Dacre Montgomery, Fiona Vroom, Becky G, Ludi Lin, RJ Cyler, David Denman
STORY: A group of five high school kids discover that they have been given amazing powers – and that they are the only ones who can save humanity from an alien menace.
PROSPECTS: Most of the kids into The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers back in the day are pushing 30 these days, with kids of their own. Expect a lot of dads in the theater for this one.
OBSTACLES: The Power Rangers haven’t really been a relevant force in kid vid for more than a decade now.
FACTOID: Cranston voiced two different creatures in the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers film back in 1993.

GHOST IN THE SHELL

RELEASE DATE: March 31, 2017
STUDIO: DreamWorks
STARRING: Scarlett Johansson, Michael Wincott, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Rila Fukushima, Christopher Obi, Takeshi Kitano
GENRE: Science Fiction
STORY: A cyborg special ops investigator known as The Major heads an elite team in a future where robotics are a part of life but an unknown terrorist organization threatens that way of life.
PROSPECTS: The manga this is based on is extremely popular and Johansson is definitely a favorite of the fanboy community.
OBSTACLES: “Extremely popular manga” doesn’t yet translate to big box office.
FACTOID: Originally the producers wanted Margot Robbie for the role of the Major; however, she turned down the part and it went to Johansson instead.

COULD-SEE

T2: TRANSPOTTING

RELEASE DATE: March 3, 2017 (expands March 10)
STUDIO: TriStar
STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Kelly Macdonald, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Ewan Bremner, Steven Robertson, Anjela Nedyalkova
GENRE: Dramedy
STORY: The original characters from the cult film return 20 years later to see how their various lives have turned out.
PROSPECTS: The film that launched Danny Boyle’s career has been a cult favorite from the day it was released.
OBSTACLES: There is not a lot of star power here and the fans of the film are not a numerous lot.
FACTOID: The original film was based on a novel; while a sequel to the original novel was written, the sequel to the film will be original material.

MIGHT-SEE

March 3, 2017

In BEFORE I FALL (Open Road) Zoey Deutch plays a young woman who has everything – until the day she dies. And to add insult to injury, she relives her last day over and over again. But why? And how? THE SHACK (Summit) is about a man struck by an unfathomable personal tragedy. In his suffering, he receives a note in his mailbox inviting him to “The Shack” and signed by “Papa,” his wife’s nickname for God. That note sends him on a journey that will transform his entire life. TABLE 19 (Fox Searchlight) features Anna Kendrick as a maid of honor who is relieved of her duties after being dumped by the best man. Refusing to miss the wedding of her oldest friend, she is seated at the misfits table in the back of the reception – which may prove to be the best thing that ever happened to her.

March 10, 2017

Opening in limited release, THE LAST WORD (Bleecker Street) is about a controlling industrialist who is now retired. She wants her obituary written while she’s still alive and hires a down-on-her-luck journalist to do just that. What results is that the industrialist discovers that not everything in her life has been written yet. Shirley MacLaine stars. In RAW (Focus World) a vegetarian who wants to be a veterinarian tries meat for the first time with horrific consequences. THE SENSE OF AN ENDING (CBS) stars Jim Broadbent as an elderly man whose perception of himself begins to take a beating when long-buried secrets resurface and force him to face the consequences of the decisions he made as a young man. THE WALL (Roadside Attractions/Amazon) is about two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper with nothing but a crumbling wall to protect them. This Doug Liman-directed war drama is opening in limited release.

March 17, 2017

Opening in limited release, 13 MINUTES (Sony Classics) is about an attempt on Adolph Hitler’s life that is unsuccessful – but would have changed the world had Hitler left a meeting 13 minutes later. THE BELKO EXPERIMENT (Orion/Blumhouse) was written by James Gunn and is about an American company in South America whose employees are sealed in the building one day and mysteriously ordered to kill each other – or be killed. In FREE FIRE (A24) an arms deal goes horribly wrong when shots are fired during the hand-off of the weapons and what was a criminal transaction turns into a deadly game of survival.

March 24, 2017

CHIPS (Warner Brothers) is a big screen comedy version of the venerable TV cop procedural set in the California Highway Patrol. LIFE (Columbia) explores the consequences when the first alien life is discovered on a space station. The stellar cast includes Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. THEIR FINEST (EuropaCorp/STX) is a comedy about a British film crew trying to make a movie that will boost morale during the London Blitz. Opening in limited release, WILSON (Fox Searchlight) is based on the Daniel Clowes graphic novel and stars Woody Harrelson as a middle-aged misanthrope who decides to try to connect to the teenage daughter he never knew he had.

March 31, 2017

BOSS BABY (DreamWorks Animation) has a suspicious young boy discovering that his new baby brother who incongruously wears a business suit is involved in a plot to get rid of puppies. Grrrrr! Opening in limited release, STEP SISTERS (Broad Green) is about an ambitious African-American sorority sister who in order to get admitted to the Law School of her dreams must first teach a bunch of white sorority girls the fine art of Black Greek stepping. THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE (Focus) stars Jessica Chastain in the true story of a Polish zookeeper’s wife who hides Jews in the empty cages of her zoo to avoid the Nazi purge of the Warsaw ghetto.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Warner Brothers) Budget: $250 Million. Domestic Gross: $330.4M Total: $873.3M Verdict: Blockbuster.
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (Paramount) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $23.1M Total: $23.1M Verdict: Flop.
THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT (Summit) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $66.2M Total: $179.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (Warner Brothers) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $615,816 Total: $6.2M Verdict: Flop.
THE BRONZE (Sony Classics) Budget: $3.5M. Domestic Gross: $33.1M Total: $615,816 Verdict: Flop.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 (Universal) Budget: $18M. Domestic Gross: $59.7M Total: $88.9 Verdict: Big Hit.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (20th Century Fox) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $3.0M Total: $14.3M Verdict: Likely Made Money.
LONDON HAS FALLEN (Focus World) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $62.5M Total: $205.8M Verdict: Hit.
ME BEFORE YOU (New Line) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $56.3M Total: $208.0M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY (Open Road) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $6.9M Total: $25.2M Verdict: Flop.
THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (Relativity) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $2.4M Total: $2.4M Verdict: Flop.
EYE IN THE SKY (Bleecker Street) Budget: $13M. Domestic Gross: $18.7M Total: $33.0M Verdict: Made Money.

APRIL

While April here in Orlando means time for the Florida Film Festival to roll in, everywhere else it means one last month before the summer blockbusters arrive but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few movies of interest arriving this month, including the eighth installment of one of the more profitable franchises of recent years, an adventure based on street magic and the latest nature documentary from DisneyNature.

The Fate of the Furious

MUST-SEE

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2017
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Jordana Brewster
GENRE: Action
STORY: A member of the family turns on the rest and in order to take him on they will have to ally themselves with a former enemy.
PROSPECTS: One of the most prolific and successful action franchises of the last 20 years seems to be getting better as it goes along.
OBSTACLES: It remains to be seen how the franchise does without Paul Walker in it.
FACTOID: This is the first film in the franchise to be set in New York City.

SHOULD-SEE

SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE

RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2017
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Mandy Patinkin, Danny Pudi, Jack McBrayer
GENRE: Animated Feature
STORY: Smurfette discovers a map that leads to the mythical Lost Village. She and her friends engage in a race against time to find the village before the evil wizard Gargamel does.
PROSPECTS: The live action Smurf movies have done well and the animated Smurf shorts are classic children’s entertainment for generations.
OBSTACLES: Smurf movies have done better live action than they have as straight animation.
FACTOID: The producers decided to go the animated route after the death of Jonathan Winters, the voice of Papa Smurf in the live action films.

THE LOST CITY OF Z

RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2017 (limited; opens wide April 28)
STUDIO: Bleecker Street/Amazon
STARRING: Tom Holland, Charlie Hunnam, Sienna Miller, Robert Pattinson, Angus Macfayden, Daniel Huttlestone, Nicholas Agnew
GENRE: Biographical Drama
STORY: The true story of British explorer Percy Fawcett who discovered evidence that an unknown advanced civilization once existed on the Amazon and his obsession to find it.
PROSPECTS: A kind of real life Indiana Jones adventure might appeal.
OBSTACLES: Flying a little bit under the radar.
FACTOID: Holland had to wear a fake moustache for the film as he was unable to grow a suitable one yet.

UNFORGETTABLE

RELEASE DATE: April 21, 2017
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl, Geoff Stults, Cheryl Ladd, Whitney Cummings, Robert Wisdom, Jayson Blair
GENRE: Thriller
STORY: After a bitter divorce, a man gets engaged to his girlfriend, hoping that he’ll finally have a relationship that makes him happy, but the ex-wife isn’t going to rest until she gets him back.
PROSPECTS: These kinds of thrillers tend to do good business this time of year.
OBSTACLES: The trailer doesn’t really show anything particularly enticing about the movie overall.
FACTOID: This is the directorial debut of long-time producer Denise Di Novi.

COULD-SEE

GIFTED

RELEASE DATE: April 12, 2017
STUDIO: Fox Searchlight
STARRING: Chris Evans, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Keir O’Connell, Julie Ann Emery, Joe Chrest
GENRE: Drama
STORY: A single man takes on the responsibility of raising his niece after his sister passes away and vows to give her the normal childhood her mother wanted to give her. Those plans get quashed when the girl turns out to be a mathematics prodigy and when that ability comes to the attention of her formidable grandmother she threatens to tear apart the nascent family.
PROSPECTS: Evans has shown he can pull off the leading man thing, and Spencer always elevates every movie she’s in.
OBSTACLES: The story has a “been there done that” quality to it.
FACTOID: This is the first original screenplay (not adapted from another source) that Webb has filmed since (500) Days of Summer.

MIGHT-SEE

April 7, 2017

The latest from actor/director Zach Braff is GOING IN STYLE (New Line) as three lifelong friends – played by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin watch helplessly as corporate interests wipe out their pensions. Desperate, they decide to rob the very bank that legally stole their pension in the first place. SLEIGHT (BH Tilt/WWE) which opens in limited release is about a savvy street magician who has to care for his little sister when his parents pass away. When he gets involved with the wrong element, his sister ends up being kidnapped and he must use his skills and his smarts to get her back safely. Opening in limited release, WONDER (Lionsgate) is about a severely disfigured young boy who proves to be an inspiration to everyone around him.

April 14, 2017

SPARK (Open Road) is an animated feature about a teenage monkey who must save a distant planet from an inter-galactic warlord. Opening in limited release is TOMMY’S HONOUR (Roadside Attractions) is the inspiring story of the founders of the game of golf.

April 21, 2017

BORN IN CHINA (DisneyNature) is the most recent release from Disney’s nature documentary label which looks at the flora and fauna of China.

April 28, 2017

THE CIRCLE (STX/EuropaCorp) stars Emma Watson as an employee at the world’s largest social media company but discovers that complete transparency, which the founder espouses, may be far more dangerous than she could have imagined. Tom Hanks co-stars. In HOW TO BE A LATIN LOVER (Pantelion), a young man moves up the social ladder by seducing wealthy older women. When he marries one such who is twice his age, he is set in the lap of luxury. When she dumps him for a younger man a couple of decades later, he is forced to move in with his poor sister and nephew and sets out to rekindling his charm, but at this point in his life, is money the most important thing to consider? Opening in limited release, THE PROMISE (Open Road) is a love triangle set during the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE JUNGLE BOOK (Disney) Budget: $175 Million. Domestic Gross: $364.0M Total: $966.6M. Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE BOSS (Universal) Budget: $29M. Domestic Gross: $63.3M Total: $78.8M Verdict: Hit.
CRIMINAL (Lionsgate) Budget: $31.5M. Domestic Gross: $14.7M Total: $38.8M Verdict: Lost Money.
THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (Universal) Budget: $115M. Domestic Gross: $48.4M Total: $165.0M Verdict: Lost Money.
RATCHET AND CLANK (Focus) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $8.8M Total: $13.0M Verdict: Flop.
BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT (New Line) Budget: $20M. Domestic Gross: $54.0M Total: $55.0M Verdict: Made Money.
MOTHER’S DAY (Open Road) Budget: $25M Domestic Gross: $32.5M Total: $43.8M Verdict: Lost Money
NINE LIVES (Relativity/EuropaCorp) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $19.7M Total: $44.2M Verdict: Lost Money.
EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (Paramount) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $3.4M Total: $4.6M Verdict: Flop.
DEMOLITION (Fox Searchlight) Budget: $10M. Domestic Gross: $2.0M Total: $4.1M Verdict: Flop.
THE GREEN ROOM (A24) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $3.2M Total: $3.8M Verdict: Flop

That’s it for now. Keep your eyes peeled for our Summer Preview at the end of April, followed by our next Fall/Holiday Preview at the end of August. We’ll have more Marvel goodness as well as the Universal horror universe getting underway as well as a shared cinematic universe of Giant monsters joining in. There will also be more entries into the DC Universe and a pair of Stephen King adaptations. Plenty of new entries in ongoing franchises will be presented as well as potential new franchises to be established. There is an awful lot to look forward to but there is certainly plenty here in the meantime to keep your cinematic urges satisfied. Don’t forget that the dates here are subject to change; there will doubtlessly already be some by the time you read this. To keep abreast of what’s being released, check out our weekly preview which will inform you as to what’s opening in the Orlando area that week, or our Coming Soon pages which go out a little bit further afield. We try to keep that as up to date as possible. In the meantime, there’s no time to waste – let’s go check out some of the bounty that will be 2017. See you at the multiplex!