Zero Dark Thirty


The halo around her head presages Jessica Chastain making box office history.

The halo around her head presages Jessica Chastain making box office history.

(2012) True Life Drama (Columbia) Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Edgar Ramirez, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, James Gandolfini, Jonathan Olley, Jeremy Strong, Reda Kateb, John Barrowman, Chris Pratt, Frank Grillo, Scott Adkins, J.J. Kandel, Fares Fares, Mark Duplass, Tushaar Mehra, Stephen Dillane, Lauren Shaw. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

Zero Dark Thirty may well be the most critically acclaimed film to come out last year and also the most controversial. The left claims that it glorifies and justifies torture, while the right claims that the filmmakers used classified material to make their film, which was also intended to help boost Obama’s electoral chances. Sony promptly defused this by scheduling it after the election.

Two years after 9-11, the CIA is no closer to finding and capturing Osama bin Laden than they were the day the Towers fell. New agent Maya (Chastain) is sent to Pakistan to work with Daniel (Clarke), one of the Agency’s top interrogators (read: torturer). In their hands is Ammar (Kateb), who helped supply money to the 9-11operatives who’d crashed the planes. Daniel water boards his prisoner and subjects him to pain and humiliation in every way imaginable.

After awhile, Maya suggests fooling him into thinking he’d already given up information that had led to Al Quaeda plans being thwarted. He gives them a name – Abu Achmed (Mehra), who is seemingly an important courier who may well have ties directly to Bin Laden. Maya seizes on this as a potential clue to his whereabouts; her station chief Joseph Bradley (Chandler) isn’t sure at all. Daniel is on the fence; he is weary of torture and wants to return home and cleanse his soul again.

Maya relentlessly chases her lead over the course of years, even after they get intelligence that Abu Achmed has been dead for years. She bonds with fellow female intelligence agent Jessica (Ehle) who looks to have a lead on a double agent who has ties to the inner circle. She goes to Camp Chapman in Afghanistan to pursue that lead…which ends in tragedy.

An attempt on Maya’s life convinces her that she’s getting close but it is no longer safe for her to stay in Pakistan so she returns to Washington to become a gadfly in the Agency as her persistence begins to pay off when information she receives leads her to find that Abu Achmed is very much alive – and living in a fortress-like complex in which someone is taking great pains to keep anyone from knowing what’s going on inside. Could this be where Bin Laden has been hiding all this time?

Well, you know what the answer to that question is unless you’ve been living under a rock. The last 25 minutes of the movie is really the payoff everyone is going to the theater to see – the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, ending up with the death of the notorious terrorist leader and the end of a decade-long nightmare. This is edge of the seat stuff, even if it is mostly seen in night vision and is often confusing and terrifying – as it must have been for the SEALs on the mission – and it at times seems like not very much is going according to plan.

I do have to say before we go into the film itself that I think that most of the complaints about the film are political posturing. This is far from an endorsement of torture for one thing – if anything, it’s an indictment against it. None of the information that they get through torture is usable – none of it. The only useful information they get is through fooling the detainee into thinking that he’d already given the information and even then it’s just a name – and not even the right one.

As for being a left-wing Obama lovefest, it’s far from that either. While I can’t speak to the filmmakers being given access to classified documents (a claim denied both by the filmmakers and the CIA, as well as with analysts familiar with the Bin Laden manhunt), I can say that they take great pains to make this as apolitical as possible. Clearly, the film is about those who undertook the greatest manhunt in history, those people in the clandestine services. No, it isn’t about suave secret agents in fast cars with nifty gadgets, although there are a few of the latter. Mostly it’s about people chasing down leads in places I wouldn’t want to spend a minute in, much less months at a time. Obama barely rates a mention or two here.

The one who rates more than a mention is Jessica Chastain. She comes into her own here and even though she’s already in a very brief time turned in some amazing performances, this tops it and puts her squarely at the top of the favorites for the Best Actress Oscar (she’s already won a Golden Globe as of this writing). She’s also made box office history, becoming the first woman ever to star in the number one and number two movies in the box office race in the same week at the same time. She joins a very elite company of men who have accomplished the same difficult feat.

Her Maya is driven, relentless as a terrier and having all the social graces of a charging bull. She is fearless, standing up to her often timid bosses who are far more afraid of being wrong than they are of not finding Bin Laden. She’s a cruise missile on a factory floor and heaven help anyone who gets in the way of her goal. Chastain is wise enough to make her vulnerabilities show up from time to time – being alone against the world can wear a person down. It’s also a very lonely place to be. Incidentally, it is reported that Maya is based on a real CIA operative, although there are those who insist that the real Maya is a man.

The movie runs about two and a half hours and that might be a little long for some, although I didn’t particularly notice the length. It does have a tendency to telegraph some of the action; when you see a date you know something tragic is about to happen.

Bigelow and her production designer Jeremy Hindle do a realistic job of setting up the look and feel of the film. Hindle built a re-creation of Bin Laden’s compound in the Jordanian desert in only a couple of months. Now, I’m not the sort who can look at the film and say “oh yes, that’s exactly the way the compound looked” but others who can do it have done so.

This is a brilliant movie that carries a little baggage with it that might affect the way you view it. I urge you not to bring small children to the movie as some idiot of a parent did to our screening; this is a movie with some pretty graphic images that the squeamish are going to have a real hard time with. For the rest of us, this is a movie that has been justifiably lauded; it’s not a perfect movie but it is certainly one that is worth your time and effort to see.

REASONS TO GO: A brilliant performance by Chastain, justifiably Oscar-nominated. Realistic almost to a fault.

REASONS TO STAY: The torture scenes are very hard to take. Telegraphs some of its moves in advance.

FAMILY VALUES:  There are some graphic depictions of torture that are by no means meant for children, nor are the pictures of those killed in the various bombings and raids. DO NOT BRING YOUR PRE-TEENS TO THIS MOVIE!!!!!!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was already in pre-production and was to be about the unsuccessful hunt for Osama Bin Laden when the news broke that Bin Laden was dead. Immediately the screenplay was re-written to turn the movie into the story of the successful hunt for Bin Laden.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/22/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews. Metacritic: 95/100; this movie is as well-reviewed as it’s possible to get.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Hurt Locker

FINAL RATING: 8.5/10

NEXT: Hesher

New Releases for the Week of January 11, 2013


Zero Dark Thirty

ZERO DARK THIRTY

(Columbia) Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Edgar Ramirez, Reda Kateb, Harold Perrineau. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

The hunt for Osama bin Laden was the most widespread, greatest manhunt in history, lasting a full ten years and two Presidential administrations. In between the mastermind of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil managed to evade the richest and most well-trained intelligence agency in the world. This is about how they caught a man who some thought was uncatchable.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: True Life Drama

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

Gangster Squad

(Warner Brothers) Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone. In the post-war mean streets of Los Angeles, the world belonged to mobster Mickey Cohen. An East Coast gangster, he was the de facto ruler of L.A., and had his tentacles so enmeshed in the Los Angeles Police Department that nothing could be done to root him out. It would take a small squad of hard men, willing to forego the law in order to uphold the law, to beat Cohen.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Gangster Crime Drama

Rating: R (for strong violence and language)

A Haunted House

(Open Road) Marlon Wayans, Nick Swardson, David Koechner, Cedric the Entertainer. A young couple moving into a new home have unexplained goings on captured by the husband’s video camera. Sound familiar? No, it’s not that movie. It’s a spoof of that movie…

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Horror Spoof

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

Naayak

(Praneeth Media) Ram Charan Teja, Kajal Agarwal, Amala Paul, Fish Venkat. A young boy must learn to fight hard in order to fulfill his brother-in-law’s ambition.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Bollywood

Rating: NR

Four-Warned: December 2012


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (1.0)
2. DJANGO UNCHAINED (1.1)
3. JACK REACHER (1.5)
4. ZERO DARK THIRTY (1.6)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. ANY DAY NOW (1.1)
2. DEADFALL (1.3)
3. BAD KIDS GO TO HELL (1.7)
4. HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (1.8)
TIE. THE LOVING STORY (1.8)

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

DECEMBER 2, 2012

THE BIG FIX (Green Planet) Genre: Documentary. The aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil spill is looked at with frightening implications. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Possibly as alarming a documentary as you’re likely to see this year.

DECEMBER 7, 2012

BAD KIDS GO TO HELL (Bad Kids Productions) Genre: Thriller. Six students in an exclusive private school are locked in Saturday detention with a killer on the loose. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.7 Based on a comic book…so yes there is a supernatural element – and Farscape’s Ben Browder too.
CHEERFUL WEATHER FOR THE WEDDING (IFC) Genre: Dramedy. A bride-to-be on her wedding day finds herself having to choose between a new life in Argentina with her new husband or running away with an ex-lover. Release Strategy: Limited RATING: 2.9 Looks a bit like low-rent Merchant-Ivory.
DEADFALL (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. A casino robbery gone wrong leaves two siblings trying to reach the Canadian border in a blizzard, leading to a chilling confrontation at Thanksgiving. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.4 Very tense and gripping with a terrific cast.
DELHI SAFARI (Applied Art) Genre: Animated Feature. A group of animals from an endangered forest go to Delhi to demand answers from the human government as to why they have allowed this to happen. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 A Bollywood animated feature only with kind of underwhelming animation.
THE FITZGERALD FAMILY CHRISTMAS (Tribeca) Genre: Dramedy. An Irish working class family is rocked by the reappearance of their estranged father for Christmas 20 years after he walked out on them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 I’ve always like Edward Burns but this doesn’t look like one of his stronger efforts.
HAPPY NEW YEAR (Self-Released) Genre: Drama. A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, wounded both physically and psychologically, find solace in a rehab center. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.6 Not sure if this will be compelling drama or same old melodrama.
HELENO (Screen Media) Genre: Biographical Drama. Brazilian-born soccer star Heleno de Freitas becomes one of the first international sports stars but threatens his status with nightclubs, alcohol and women. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.4 One of those “superstar with an illness” films; perhaps the Brazilian Pride of the Yankees.
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (Focus) Genre: True Life Drama. The visit of the reigning King and Queen of England to FDR’s upstate New York country retreat in 1939 as seen through the eyes of the President’s cousin. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Looks poignant and funny; could be a marvelous film.
IN OUR NATURE (Cinedigm) Genre: Drama. A young man takes his girlfriend up to his family’s vacation home only to have his plans interrupted by the appearance of his estranged dad and his much-younger girlfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Strong cast, looks like a cut above some of these sorts of films.
LAY THE FAVORITE (Radius) Genre: Comedy. An ex-stripper and cocktail waitress falls in with a professional gambler; when she looks to have skills herself, things get complicated between her, the gambler and the gambler’s wife. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Nice cast and Stephen Frears is the director but trailer looked oddly unexciting.
PLAYING FOR KEEPS (FilmDistrict) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When a former pro soccer star takes over coaching his son’s youth team, his attempts to reconcile with his ex and his plans for a career in sportscasting are imperiled. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 Gerard Butler is one of my favorite actors these days.
QUARTET (Weinstein) Genre: Comedy. A benefit concert for a home for retired opera singers is disrupted by the arrival of a diva who refuses to sing for the benefit. Release Strategy: Los Angeles (opening in New York City January 11). RATING: 1.9 Great cast, Dustin Hoffman directing and some very funny British humor; what’s not to like?
THE RABBI’S CAT (GKIDS) Genre: Animated Feature. A rabbi and his talking cat find themselves at the crossroads of French, Arabic and Jewish cultures in Algeria in the 1930s. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles December 14). RATING: 2.5 Looks energetic and a bit saucy.
TCHOUPITOULAS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) Genre: Documentary. Three adolescent brothers journey through the intoxicating nightlife in New Orleans in a single night. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 I love New Orleans; the trailer really doesn’t reveal much about the film so it could be either really a waste of time or really capture the spirit of the Crescent City.
WAGNER & ME (First Run) Genre: Documentary. Renowned British actor Stephen Fry, a man of Jewish descent who loves the music of Richard Wagner, tries to reconcile his love for the music with the knowledge that it was appropriated by the Nazis and Adolph Hitler. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Looks like quite a journey and a fascinating one.
WAITING FOR LIGHTNING (Goldwyn) Genre: Documentary. Danny Way emerges from a broken home to become one of the most admired skateboarders in the world – and goes so far as to attempt to jump the Great Wall of China on his board.. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Not. Interested.

DECEMBER 10, 2012

THE LOVING STORY (Icarus) Genre: Documentary. A look back at the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage and the couple that fought for that right. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 Although it’s already been shown on HBO, it’s a film that is particularly meaningful given the current state of gay marriage.

DECEMBER 12, 2012

CONSUMING SPIRITS (Self-Released) Genre: Animated Feature. When a nun is killed in a car accident, events are set into motion that will affect three people who didn’t know that the others even existed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 A variety of animation styles and a story that seems to meander; either brilliant or pretentious I can’t decide which.

DECEMBER 14, 2012

ANY DAY NOW (Music Box) Genre: Drama. In the 1970s, a gay couple attempts to adopt a child with Down’s syndrome that was abandoned by his mother, setting off a firestorm of legal proceedings and protests to try and prevent the unconventional family from staying together. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 The trailer looks incredibly moving; this could be an amazing performance from Alan Cumming.
THE GIRL (Brainstorm Media) Genre: Drama. A little girl gets separated from her illegal alien mother and is found by a Texas woman who goes on a quest to find her mom no matter where the trail might lead. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opens in limited release March 2013). RATING: 2.6 No trailer so couldn’t really get an idea how this looks; nice cast though.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (New Line) Genre: Fantasy. The first of three films made from the beloved J.R.R. Tolkein novel that precedes the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.0 This is going to be a blockbuster. No doubt about it.
SAVE THE DATE (IFC) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A fiercely independent girl breaks up with her boyfriend on the eve of her best friend’s marriage to the best friend of her ex, all while she’s attempting a new relationship with a rebound guy. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Looks a bit like it might have indie hipster disease.
STAND-UP GUYS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Action. A former mobster is released from prison after 28 years of keeping silent. He is picked up by a pair of friends for a night of remember when, not realizing one of them has been ordered to kill him. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opening wide February 1). RATING: 2.1 Pacino, Walken and Arkin – who could ask for a better cast?

DECEMBER 19, 2012

AMOUR (Sony Classics) Genre: Drama. The life of a couple in their 80s is thrown upside down when health problems intrude. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Not sure where this movie is headed but the last scene in the trailer is marvelous.
THE GUILT TRIP (Paramount) Genre: Comedy. An inventor headed to a crucial meeting impulsively invites his mother along when he realizes how lonely she’s going to be. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen as mom and son? Hmmm…
MONSTERS, INC. 3D (Disney) Genre: Animated Feature. Yet another Disney*Pixar classic gets the 3D re-release. Personally I think they should have brought it out a little closer to the release date of Monsters University but who am I to question the wisdom of the Mouse? Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.9 I just can’t get behind these cash-generating re-releases except for those who didn’t see the original in theaters and even then I’d recommend the standard version.
ZERO DARK THIRTY (Columbia) Genre: True Life Drama. The manhunt for Osama bin Laden from inside the teams that located him and took him down. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (Opening wide January 11). RATING: 1.6 Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up to The Hurt Locker.

DECEMBER 21, 2012

BARBARA (Adopt) Genre: Drama. A young doctor attempting to flee East Germany is exiled to a rural hospital and turns to the head physician for solace but she begins to suspect he may be more than he seems. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Sounds interesting but the trailer is very low-key.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY 3D (Paramount) Genre: Fantasy. An incredible journey through fantastic landscapes with the acrobats of the Cirque du Soliel providing highlights along the way. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.0 Looks like it could be rather fantastic with director Andrew Adamson at the helm.
THE IMPOSSIBLE (Summit) Genre: True Life Drama. A family separated by the Boxing Day Tsunami in Thailand in 2004 desperately searches for one another in the chaotic aftermath. Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles. RATING: 1.9 Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are both very likable and the trailer looks just incredible.
JACK REACHER (Paramount) Genre: Action. Ex-military cop Jack Reacher investigates a friend who’s an ex-Army sniper that is accused of murdering five people with six shots. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 I’m not sure Tom Cruise is the right guy for the role but the trailer looks pretty good.
NOT FADE AWAY (Paramount Vantage) Genre: Musical Drama. A group of friends in 1964 New Jersey, inspired by a TV appearance by the Rolling Stones, form a band. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 From David Chase, creator of “The Sopranos” and stars James Gandolfini from that show; what more could you ask?
ON THE ROAD (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama A young writer is taken on a cross-country journey by a free-spirited Western couple in an attempt to escape conformity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Based on the classic Jack Kerouac novel but the trailer didn’t connect with me.
THIS IS 40 (Universal) Genre: Comedy. As a couple approaches their 40th birthdays, they begin to re-examine their lives and their goals. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Judd Apatow’s sorta sequel to Knocked Up.

DECEMBER 25, 2012

DJANGO UNCHAINED (Weinstein) Genre: Western. A bounty hunter and a freed slave go up against a sadistic plantation owner. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 The latest from Quentin Tarantino looks badass as usual.
LES MISERABLES (Universal) Genre: Musical. A relentless police officer pursues a former prisoner who broke parole in 19th century France as both men struggle through a landscape on the eve of revolution. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Based on the beloved Broadway musical; the cast looks stellar and Anne Hathaway looks like she could get some Oscar consideration for this.
PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th Century Fox) Genre: Comedy. Two grandparents with old school child raising mentalities are given their grandchildren to watch who have been raised with much more modern methods. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Billy Crystal, Bette Midler and Marisa Tomei make this extremely appealing.
WEST OF MEMPHIS (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. The fight to free the unjustly convicted West Memphis Three is told in documentary form. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 A feature film version is in the works for this incredible story.

DECEMBER 26, 2012

TABU (Adopt) Genre: Drama. A cantankerous elderly Portuguese woman who is gravely ill sends for a former lover nobody in her present life knows about; their tale is told over 50 years through the reflections of her lover. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 In black and white, smoldering and sexy.

DECEMBER 28, 2012

ALLEGIANCE (XLrator) Genre: Action. A soldier granted a questionable transfer keeping him transfer to keep him home while his National Guard unit deploys gets embroiled in another soldier’s attempt to go AWOL. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Could be cheesy but could be gripping.
PROMISED LAND (Focus) Genre: Drama. A pair of representatives for a natural gas company try to get the drilling rights for an entire small town hit by hard economic times but run into unexpected resistance . Release Strategy: New York City/Los Angeles (opens wide January 4). RATING: 2.3 A really good cast includes Matt Damon, Hal Holbrook, John Krasinski and Frances McDormand.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
Hyde Park on Hudson, Playing for Keeps, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Guilt Trip, Zero Dark Thirty, Jack Reacher, This is 40, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Parental Guidance, Promised Land

Fall/Holiday 2012 Preview


As summer winds down and school beckons, it is nice to look back upon the laid back days of summer and remember the good times; the warm summer nights, the barbecues, family vacations, beach days and concerts beneath the stars. For many of us, summer is defined by the movies that come out and there have been some big hits as well as some duds.

With The Avengers leading the way, the box office has been an improvement over the moribund numbers of 2011. Not only is it the biggest summer blockbuster in history (the two James Cameron movies ahead of it were both released in the fall) but it was also well-reviewed and audiences were enthusiastic in their praise. This is a movie that appealed to virtually everyone and led the way for more hits that kept studio coffers nice and full this year.

The Oscar race will be in full swing this fall and while the independent release Moonrise Kingdom is already garnering some Oscar buzz, it will have to contend with such films as Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Clint Eastwood’s new baseball movie Trouble With the Curve (although he is only acting in this one, not directing) and Quentin Tarantino’s deconstructed western Django Unchained.

There will also be blockbusters lest you think the summer season has exhausted them all. Look for box office lines for Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Jack Reacher and Skyfall. While there are no Christmas movies currently on the schedule, Santa makes an appearance in the oddball animated feature Rise of the Guardians which might be, by default, the family movie of the holidays.

Those who love to be scared at the cinema will have plenty of opportunities, particularly around Halloween. Some of the titles for you to get your scream on are Paranormal Activity 4, The House at the End of the Street, Sinister and videogame adaptations Resident Evil: Retribution and Silent Hill: Revelation. If you’d rather laugh than scream there’s always Here Comes the Boom, Parental Guidance, The Guilt Trip and This is Forty. If you’re looking for thrills that can only be found in action and adventure movies you can look forward to Dredd, Red Dawn, Argo and Looper. The kids won’t be ignored either with such family-friendly fare as Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph on the schedule.

The fall and winter are a great time for star-gazing and 2011 will have its share. You’ll be able to see Tom Cruise (Jack Reacher), Leonardo di Caprio (Django Unchained), Daniel Craig (Skyfall), Kevin James (Here Comes the Boom), Bill Murray, (Hyde Park on Hudson), Tyler Perry (Alex Cross), Denzel Washington (Flight), Ben Affleck (Argo), Tom Hanks (Cloud Atlas), Liam Neeson (Taken 2), Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), Bruce Willis (The Cold Light of Day and Looper), Jennifer Lawrence (The House at the End of the Street and The Silver Linings Playbook), Chris Hemsworth (Red Dawn), Billy Crystal (Parental Guidance), Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), Russell Crowe (The Man With the Iron Fists), Bette Midler (Parental Guidance) and Barbra Streisand (The Guilt Trip). We’ll also see our fair share of great directors, including Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Ang Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Judd Apatow, Sam Mendes and Tim Burton, among others.

So hopefully there are a few films here that will pique your interest as you prepare for the cold weather months to begin. Further details can be found in our weekly Previews and monthly Four-Warned features, and many of the movies you see listed here will eventually make their way to our daily reviews. So don’t be afraid to try a few new movies on for size; there’s more than one that’s bound to meet your standards, particularly if you took the time to read this far.

SEPTEMBER

The first month of the fall is essentially a buffer between the summer movies and the splashier films of the holiday season. Sometimes there are a few gems that make it into the mix among all the also-rans the studios usually schedule. Some of the likelier choices include an animated feature starring some of moviedom’s most famous monsters, a baseball drama starring Clint Eastwood, a film version of an iconic British science fiction comic book and the latest entry in the most successful film franchise to be based on a videogame franchise.

CHRISTMAS

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA
RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia/Sony Animation
STARRING THE VOICES OF: Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez, Andy Samberg, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Cee-Lo Green, David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz
STORY: These days Dracula runs a five-star resort for monsters so that they can relax away from humankind who are strictly forbidden from the property. Then, when one comes along his headstrong daughter falls in love – with one of them!! You know that’s not going to sit well with the King of Vampires.
PROSPECTS: The only family competition at this time of year will be the re-release of Finding Nemo in 3D. Has a kind of “Spooky Tales” vibe for kids, an all-star voice cast for big kids.
OBSTACLES: The late September release date might be a week or two too early to properly cash in on Halloween.
FACTOID: This is the first feature film by Genndy Tartakovsky, who is best known for the “Star Wars: Clone Wars” show as well as other Cartoon Network mainstays.

THANKSGIVING

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION
RELEASE DATE: September 14, 2012
STUDIO: Screen Gems
STARRING: Milla Jovovoich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li BIngbing
STORY: As the dreaded T-virus overruns the world, the mainly indestructible Alice goes to the source – the Umbrella Corporation – with the intention of taking the fight to them and making those responsible pay. However, the further she gets into the fight, the more revelations she will discover – altering her view of things forever.
PROSPECTS: The most successful translation of videogames to movies thus far, the Resident Evil franchise shows no signs of slowing down. The last movie was one of the best (if not the best) in the franchise to date.
OBSTACLES: The comparable Underworld franchise didn’t do very well when their latest film was released earlier this year.
FACTOID: Jensen Ackles of “Supernatural” was considered for the role of Leon Kennedy but his TV filming schedule conflicted with filming for this, so the role went to Johann Urb instead.

LOOPER
RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2012
STUDIO: Tri-Star
STARRING: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Garret Dillahunt, Tracie Thoms
STORY: In the future after time travel has been invented, the mob sends people back to 2012 to be killed and disposed of by Loopers, assassins hired and well-paid for the privilege. However when one Looper’s target turns out to be his future self, things go a bit haywire.
PROSPECTS: Gordon-Levitt is a star on the rise and Willis remains one of the most bankable action stars in the business.
OBSTACLES: Sci-fi hasn’t traditionally done well in September and time travel movies have a tendency to be confusing to mass audiences.
FACTOID: Levitt wore prosthetics and his eyes digitally altered so that he would resemble Willis more closely.

HALLOWEEN

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY
RELEASE DATE: September 7, 2012
STUDIO: Summit
STARRING: Henry Cavill, Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Echegui, Joseph Mawle, Jim Piddock, Caroline Goodall, Rafi Gavron, Emma Hamilton, Michael Budd, Oscar Jaenada
STORY: A family sailing vacation in Spain turns into a nightmare for an American family who are kidnapped by a counter-intelligence agency looking for a mysterious briefcase. The eldest son must recover the case while sifting through the lies and the deception that was the life he knew in order to save them.
PROSPECTS: An intriguing premise and a pretty decent trailer promise a respectable action film.
OBSTACLES: The studio has shifted around its release date and relegated it to a limited release run, never a good sign.
FACTOID: Director Mabrouk El Mechri is a French director of Tunisian origin who is best known in this country for directing JCVD.

LABOR DAYS

SEPTEMBER 7, 2012

BRANDED (Roadside Attractions) is set in a dystopian future where corporations control the political environment and the population is kept happy through a campaign of disinformation and mind control. Sounds vaguely familiar but will nonetheless be opening in limited release. In THE WORDS (CBS) a writer finally finds success with an acclaimed best-selling novel. The trouble is, he didn’t actually write it.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

FINDING NEMO 3D (Disney) is a re-release of the beloved Disney classic in 3D and IMAX formats for the first time. Cha-ching! THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (Summit) stars Logan Lerman and Emma Watson as a shy young prep school student finds some solace among a group of outsiders like himself. This was recently changed from a wide to limited release.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012

In HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (Relativity) Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence are a mother and daughter who move into a house on the street where a gruesome murder occurred. Strange incidents begin to point at the previous murders just being the tip of the iceberg. DREDD 3D (Lionsgate) is based on the iconic British comic. In an irradiated future, Dredd is a Judge – a combination police officer, judge and executioner. He and psychic Judge Anderson take on a psychotic slumlord in a war for survival in which only one side will be left standing. KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) stars Brad Pitt as an enforcer investigating a heist during a high-stakes mob-protected poker game. This is based on a novel by George V. Higgins. WAR OF THE BUTTONS (Weinstein) is set in occupied France during World War II when rival gangs of kids from neighboring villages must put aside their conflict to save a Jewish girl. This is also opening in limited release.

SEPTEMBER 28, 2012

In END OF WATCH (Open Road) two hot-shot cops and partners run afoul of the cartels after a routine bust yields up a large chunk of their cash. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star. TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (Warner Brothers) stars Clint Eastwood as an aging baseball scout whose sight is failing. He enlists the help of his daughter as he takes a last trip to Atlanta to evaluate a young phenom. WON’T BACK DOWN (20th Century Fox) stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis as a couple of ordinary women who take on the system to improve education in their neighborhood.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

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

APOLLO 18 (Weinstein) Budget: $5 Million. Domestic Gross: $17.7M Total: $25.6M Verdict: Hit.
CONTAGION (Warner Brothers) Budget: $60M. Domestic Gross: $75.7M Total: $135.5M Verdict: Made Money.
DREAM HOUSE (Universal) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $21.3M Total: $38.5M Verdict: Flop.
DRIVE (FilmDistrict) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $35.1M Total: $76.1M Verdict: Big Hit.
MONEYBALL (Columbia) Budget: $50M. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $110.2M Verdict: Broke Even.
DOLPHIN TALE 3D (Warner Brothers) Budget: $37M. Domestic Gross: $72.3M Total: $95.4M Verdict: Made Money.
ABDUCTION (Lionsgate) Budget: $35M. Domestic Gross: $28.1M Total: $82.1M Verdict: Made Money.
I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT (Weinstein) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $9.7M Total: $30.6M Verdict: Lost Money.
STRAW DOGS (Screen Gems) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $10.3M Total: $10.3 Verdict: Flop.
50/50 (Summit) Budget: $8M. Domestic Gross: $35.0M Total: $39.2 Verdict: Big Hit.

OCTOBER

The tenth month of the year is a time of spooks and shadows as the weather starts to turn cool. The smell of burning leaves fills the neighborhood as the sounds of college football on Saturday afternoon televisions. School is in full swing and the Holiday season is right around the corner. Hollywood tends to pack this month with autumnal offerings, mainly with horror which will be well represented by the fourth installment of the most popular found footage series in history, the tale of a boy and the dog he resurrected, the terrifying home movies of a serial killer and the sequel to one of the scariest movies based on a video game ever. For those who are squeamish, there’s a new one from director Ben Affleck, the return of a popular detective, a sequel to one of Liam Neeson’s biggest hits and the latest from the directors of The Matrix.

CHRISTMAS

CLOUD ATLAS
RELEASE DATE: October 26, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
STORY: Four different lives in four different eras create a ripple effect that can be felt throughout all four eras all the way through the end of time.
PROSPECTS: A very ambitious effort that unites respected German director Tom Twyker (Run, Lola, Run) and the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy). The trailer looks absolutely spectacular and the movie has Hanks to pull in a fairly sizable opening night crowd.
OBSTACLES: The Wachowski’s last – Speed Racer – was a flop. The multi-era arc reminds me a little bit of another artistic science fiction film – Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain and that was a flop as well.
FACTOID: The entire film was shot with two parallel production units; one helmed by Twyker, the other by the Wachowski’s with completely different crews. Only the cast was shared between production teams.

THANKSGIVING

ARGO
RELEASE DATE: October 12, 2012
STUDIO: Warner Brothers
STARRING: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Kyle Chandler, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Kerry Bishe, Zeljko Ivanek, Richard Kind
STORY: During the Iranian hostage crisis, six Americans escape the embassy and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. It is up to an American extraction specialist for the CIA to get them out and he comes up with a plan so ludicrous and outrageous that it had to be true.
PROSPECTS: Taken from recently de-classified documents. Affleck’s last film as director and star (as he is here) was The Town which was a big hit. A solid cast here as well.
OBSTACLES: Most teens and young people weren’t alive for the Iranian hostage crisis and lack interest in it. Affleck isn’t the box office slam dunk he once was.
FACTOID: The CIA allowed the filmmakers to film some scenes at their Langley, VA headquarters – a very unusual honor as the CIA rarely allows any sort of filming on their premises.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4
RELEASE DATE: October 19, 2012
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Katie Featherston, Brady Allen, Matt Shively
STORY: While the plot is being kept under serious wraps, the trailer indicates that a strange mother and son move into a neighborhood and eerie things begin happening.
PROSPECTS: The most successful horror franchise currently in production, this looks to be the big moneymaker come Halloween.
OBSTACLES: People may well be getting tired of the found footage conceit. It might be time to give this one a rest.
FACTOID: Featherston is the only actor to appear in all four films in the franchise.

HALLOWEEN

THE PAPERBOY
RELEASE DATE: October 5, 2012
STUDIO: Millennium
STARRING: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman, Scott Glenn
STORY: In 1960s Florida, a prominent family of journalists are torn apart by the investigation of a sheriff-killing murderer on death row.
PROSPECTS: Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his Oscar-nominated turn in Precious has a pretty respectable cast and a steamy, sexy story that boasts Nicole Kidman and Macy Gray in the center of it.
OBSTACLES: Millennium is not a big distributor, so this will see a very limited number of screens.
FACTOID: Mariah Carey recorded the movie’s theme song.

LABOR DAYS

OCTOBER 5, 2012
BUTTER (Weinstein) explores the rarified air of one of America’s underrated sports – competitive butter carving. Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner star. In FRANKENWEENIE (Disney), a young boy resurrects his recently deceased pooch with unexpected results. This is based on Tim Burton’s short which basically led to his career being established here; expanding it into a feature is Burton’s way of saying thanks. PITCH PERFECT (Universal) is a kind of take on “Glee.” OK, it’s essentially a rip-off but who cares? You know the Gleeks will be all in. SINISTER (Summit) stars Ethan Hawke as a crime novelist who finds a box of home movies taken by a serial killer, but the film hides something far more terrifying. TAKEN 2 (20th Century Fox) finds Liam Neeson taking on the father of the kidnappers who tried to take his daughter in the first film. You think that father knows best but noooooooo. THE ORANGES (ATO) finds long-time neighbors thrown into upheaval when the teenage daughter of one family falls in love with the father of the other. Opening in limited release, WUTHERING HEIGHTS (Oscilloscope Laboratories) is the most recent version of the Emily Bronte classic. Ah, Heathcliff and Catherine – together again at last.

OCTOBER 12, 2012
ATLAS SHRUGGED PART II (Atlas) is the concluding chapter in this independently made Tea Party-approved version of the Ayn Rand classic. Kevin James stars in HERE COMES THE BOOM (Columbia), a movie about a high school gym teacher who in order to secure funds for his school takes up MMA wrestling. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (CBS) stars Colin Ferrell as a Hollywood screenwriter whose friends Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu, putting our hero quite solidly in the spotlight he doesn’t want to be in.

OCTOBER 19, 2012
ALEX CROSS (Summit) reboots the mystery franchise handled so ably by Morgan Freeman, putting Tyler Perry in the title role. This time the brilliant detective takes on a sadistic serial killer (played by Matthew Fox) who intends to get personal with Detective Cross. KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Weinstein) features Brad Pitt as an enforcer who investigates the robbery of a mob-protected poker game in New Orleans.

OCTOBER 26, 2012
During THE BIG WEDDING (Lionsgate), the divorced parents of the groom (Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton) must pretend to still be together in order not to alienate the hyper-Christian parents of the bride. The spectacular cast includes Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes. CHASING MAVERICKS (20th Century Fox) is about Jay Moriarty, who would go on to be a surfing legend, and his chase to surf the biggest, most dangerous wave – and the mentor who put him in the position to survive it. FUN SIZE (Paramount) is a teen comedy about a girl who finally gets the big invite to THE Halloween party of all time but is forced to babysit her kid brother – whom she promptly loses on Halloween night. SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D (Open Road) is the sequel to the video game-based original which was one of the most genuinely creepy (and damned scary) movies of the last ten years. The surviving husband who is raising their daughter now alone is on the run from unexplainable forces – which eventually catch up with him.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

REAL STEEL (Warner Brothers) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $85.5M Total: $295.5M Verdict: Made Money.
FOOTLOOSE (Paramount) Budget: $24M. Domestic Gross: $51.8M Total: $62.7M Verdict: Made Money.
ANONYMOUS (Sony Classics) Budget: $30M. Domestic Gross: $4.5M Total: $15.4M Verdict: Flop.
THE IDES OF MARCH (Columbia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $41.0M Total: $76.0M Verdict: Hit.
IN TIME (20th Century Fox) Budget: $40M. Domestic Gross: $37.5M Total: $173.9 Verdict: Big Hit.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 (Paramount) Budget: $5M. Domestic Gross: $140.0M Total: $205.7 Verdict: Blockbuster.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS (Summit) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $20.4M Total: $132.3M Verdict: Lost Money.
WANDERLUST (Universal) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $17.3M Total: $21.5M Verdict: Flop.
THE THING (Universal) Budget: $38M. Domestic Gross: $16.9M Total: $27.4M Verdict: Flop.
THE RUM DIARY (FilmDistrict) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $13.1M Total: $24.0M Verdict: Flop.
THE BIG YEAR (20th Century Fox) Budget: $41M. Domestic Gross: $7.2M Total: $7.5M Verdict: Flop.

NOVEMBER

The Holiday release season usually starts heating up here. While one franchise wraps things up, the Bond films continue to go strong and several other candidates vie to create new franchises including an animated feature about our great childhood legends teaming up to fight a new evil and another set in the world of classic videogames. Films from Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and rapper RZA also head up the list of anticipated releases.

CHRISTMAS

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2
RELEASE DATE: November 16, 2012
STUDIO: Summit Entertainment
STARRING: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Nikki Reed, Billy Burke, Maggie Grace, Lee Pace, Elizabeth Reaser, Rami Malek
STORY: Having had her baby, Renesmee, Bella’s troubles aren’t over yet. She has to face a pack of bloodthirsty…movie critics.
PROSPECTS: The last movie of the series which will bring some pre-pubescent hearts to tears and others to profound relief, like always this will be a phenomenon the first weekend and quickly taper off.
OBSTACLES: The only obstacles for this film is going to be fighting your way through screaming Team Edward and Team Jacob fans and their equally frantic moms to get tickets for this.
FACTOID: At $75 million, this film had the largest production budget of any of the Twilight films.

THANKSGIVING

SKYFALL
RELEASE DATE: November 9, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia/MGM
STARRING: Daniel Craig, Dame Judy Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Berenice Marlohe, Ben Whishaw, Helen McCrory, Ola Rapace
STORY: M’s past comes back to haunt her, and MI-6 comes under direct attack from forces that James Bond will have to take on – at the possible cost of his life.
PROSPECTS: Bardem has always been a Bond villain waiting to happen. Fan anticipation is high for this one.
OBSTACLES: It has been four years since the last Bond film which was generally considered as a disappointment by most Bond fans, leading Mendes and the producers to change gears from continuing the Quantum storyline
FACTOID: This is the first Bond film to be directed by an Oscar-winning director (Sam Mendes); it is also being released in the U.S. days before the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film, Dr. No.

FLIGHT
RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2012
STUDIO: Paramount
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Brian Geraghty, Tamara Tunie
STORY: A commercial airline pilot becomes a hero after saving most of the passengers on his flight with an unorthodox maneuver. His heroism, however, is called into question.
PROSPECTS: A compelling trailer makes this look gut-wrenching. With Robert Zemeckis making a return to live-action filming and Denzel Washington in the lead, this is a likely candidate for a big fall hit
OBSTACLES: There’s a good portion of the population who are still uneasy with movies about airplane crashes. Zemeckis’ track record with motion capture movies has been less than stellar.
FACTOID: This is the first live-action feature film for Zemeckis since Cast Away in 2000.

HALLOWEEN

JACK AND DIANE
RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2012
STUDIO: Magnolia
STARRING: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Kylie Minogue, Cara Seymour, Dane DeHaan, Michael Chernus, Lou Taylor Pucci
STORY: Two girls meet in New York and begin kissing. A lot. Then, when one of them has to move it leads to unexpected changes in the body of the other.
PROSPECTS: Has quietly received some online buzz. Although listed as a horror film, it is actually an amalgam of genres.
OBSTACLES: May be a little too Kafka-esque for general movie audiences.
FACTOID: Originally meant for Juno co-stars Olivia Thirlby and Ellen Page but they proved to be unavailable.

LABOR DAYS

NOVEMBER 2, 2012
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (Focus) brings Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA into a martial arts epic, which was not only bound to happen but is long overdue. Also starring Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu, Pam Grier, Cung Le, Rick Yune and a host of others, a blacksmith makes a home in a Chinese village and when threatened by evil warring clans turns himself into a human weapon. THIS MUST BE THE PLACE (Weinstein) stars Sean Penn as a retired rock star living off his royalties who returns to the United States for the funeral of his estranged father. This prompts him to take a journey across the country to do one last thing to try to get to know his dad. WRECK-IT RALPH (Disney) is an animated feature about a classic video game baddie who longs to be a good guy – and decides to leave his game to find his inner hero elsewhere. A LATE QUARTET (EntertainmentOne) follows a world famous string quartet on the occasion of their 25th anniversary amid great drama, heartbreaking tragedy and formidable lust. Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman star.

NOVEMBER 9, 2012
LINCOLN (DreamWorks) stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th President in an epic film about the Great Emancipator by Steven Spielberg which is bound to be counting up the Oscar nominations come January.

NOVEMBER 16, 2012
Opening in limited release, ANNA KARENINA (Focus) stars Keira Knightley in the title role of Tolstoy’s epic novel in which a well-off woman married to an aristocrat falls in love with a dashing Russian cavalry officer as sweeping changes begin to overwhelm the nation.

NOVEMBER 21, 2012
LIFE OF PI (20th Century Fox) is the latest from director Ang Lee in which the survivor of a shipwreck must co-exist with the only other survivor of the disaster – a Bengal Tiger. One of the most visually impressive trailers of the year makes this a movie I’m anticipating intently. In RED DAWN (FilmDistrict) a small Colorado town copes with the invasion of the United States by the Chinese, while a group of the town’s high school football heroes forms an underground resistance . Based on the 1984 film classic. RISE OF THE GUARDIANS (DreamWorks) is an animated feature in which Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and the Tooth Fairy must team up to save the children of the world from an evil spirit. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (Weinstein) features Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as a couple of emotionally challenged people who agree to help each other with extremely important tasks but find an unexpected relationship developing. Robert De Niro also stars.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 (Summit) Budget: $110M. Domestic Gross: $281.3Total: $705.1M Verdict: Blockbuster.
HUGO (Paramount) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $73.9M Total: $184.7M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
THE MUPPETS (Disney) Budget: $45M. Domestic Gross: $88.6M Total: $158.4M Verdict: Hit.
IMMORTALS (Relativity) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $83.5M Total: $226.9M Verdict: Hit.
PUSS IN BOOTS (DreamWorks) Budget: $130M. Domestic Gross: $149.3M Total: $554.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE DESCENDANTS (Fox Searchlight) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $82.6M Total: $177.2M Verdict: Likely a Hit.
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (Columbia) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $46.5M Total: $147.4M Verdict: Likely broke even or even lost money.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY (Focus) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $24.2M Total: $80.6M Verdict: Likely broke even.
J. EDGAR (Warner Brothers) Budget: $35M Domestic Gross: $37.3M Total: $79.0M Verdict: Broke Even.
HAPPY FEET TOO (Warner Brothers) Budget: $N/A Domestic Gross: $64.0M Total: $150.4M Verdict: Likely a Flop.
TOWER HEIST (Universal) Budget: $75M Domestic Gross: $78.1M Total: $152.9M Verdict: Broke Even.
JACK AND JILL (Columbia) Budget: $79M Domestic Gross: $74.2M Total: $149.6M Verdict: Flop.

DECEMBER

The last month of the year goes out with a bang instead of a whimper as Oscar candidates vie for holiday blockbusters for space at the multiplex and for the dollars in your wallet. This year Peter Jackson returns to Middle Earth, fellow Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow returns to the Middle East and Hollywood returns to Broadway, while Tom Cruise assays one of his darkest roles yet.

CHRISTMAS

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
RELEASE DATE: December 14, 2012
STUDIO: New Line
STARRING: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Evangeline Lilly, Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, Billy Connolly, Stephen Fry, Luke Evans
STORY: Bilbo Baggins, a respectable Hobbit of the Shire, is swept up into an adventure in which a band of dwarves attempt to retake their kingdom with the help of an eccentric wizard named Gandalf from the terrifying dragon Smaug.
PROSPECTS: Will almost certainly wind up in the top three box office films of the year. Peter Jackson returning to Middle Earth has got all the fanboys salivating and the recent announcement that there will be three films taken from the J.R.R. Tolkein classic was almost too good to be true.
OBSTACLES: The Hobbit was meant more as a children’s book and some might find it childish.
FACTOID: Was originally going to be directed by Guillermo del Toro who wound up dropping out when pre-production was put on hold while MGM (who originally had the rights) went through bankruptcy proceedings.

THANKSGIVING

ZERO DARK THIRTY
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2012
STUDIO: Columbia
STARRING: Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Nash Edgerton, Jennifer Ehle, Harold Perrineau, Frank Grillo
STORY: American intelligence forces search for the world’s most wanted criminal – Osama bin Laden. Based on the actual search and eventual assassination of the 9/11 mastermind.
PROSPECTS: Kathryn Bigelow won an Oscar for The Hurt Locker. The assault on bin Laden’s compound remains one of the most talked about events of recent years – but few people know many details about it.
OBSTACLES: Movies about the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have not done well.
FACTOID: Edgerton was originally cast in the lead and then had to drop out due to scheduling difficulties. However when those conflicts were resolved, he returned to the part and Jason Clarke, who had been set to take his part, was given a different role.

THIS IS 40

RELEASE DATE: December 21, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, Charlene Yi, Jason Segel, Lena Dunham, Johnny Pemberton
STORY: A couple who have traded in their youth for parenthood cope with the oncoming soul-crushing 40s as they transition from youth into middle age.
PROSPECTS: Loosely spun off from Knocked Up, the trailer looked hysterically funny and might well be Judd Apatow’s best film yet.
OBSTACLES: Apatow has not been as prolific lately and his films haven’t been pulling the same numbers a they were five or six years ago.
FACTOID: Neither Katherine Heigl nor Seth Rogen who starred in Knocked Up appear in this film (according to IMDb anyway).

LES MISERABLES
RELEASE DATE: December 14, 2012
STUDIO: Universal
STARRING: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Aaron Tveit
STORY: Jean Valjean, convicted of stealing bread to eat, violates his patrol and is chased by the relentless Inspector Javert. In the meantime, Valjean agrees to care for Cosette, the daughter of factory worker Fantine. This act will end up having unforeseen consequences for both men.
PROSPECTS: This is the longest-running musical in the entire world and was a contemporary of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera. With a stellar cast – all practiced in music and musicals – and some of the finest songs ever written for the stage this one might well be the event of the holiday season.
OBSTACLES: Musicals, even well-made ones have had a checkered past lately at the box office. Les Mis might not have the cachet of Phantom or Cats.
FACTOID: Hathaway’s audition was so raw and emotional that it reportedly had the producers in tears.

HALLOWEEN

AMOUR
RELEASE DATE: December 19, 2012
STUDIO: Sony Classics
STARRING: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Alexandre Tharaud, William Shimell, Ramon Agirre, Rita Blanco, Carole Franck
STORY: A couple in their 80s, both retired from teaching music, enter their golden years content and still deeply in love. Their daughter, also a musician, lives abroad. When one of them gets seriously ill, their bonds are tested in ways they never imagined.
PROSPECTS: Michael Haneke might be the greatest director you’ve never heard of but to film buffs his latest films are greeted with the same enthusiasm as a new Twilight film would be by that fanbase – only without the screaming.
OBSTACLES: Haneke isn’t well-known in the United States and films about the elderly are generally death at the box office as most young people would rather have their cell phones and iPads taken away from them forever than watch a movie about older people.
FACTOID: Haneke is one of just eight directors whose films have won two Palme d’Or awards at Cannes, Francis Ford Coppola among them.

LABOR DAYS

DECEMBER 7, 2012
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (Focus) stars Bill Murray as President Franklin D. Roosevelt entertaining the King and Queen of England at his Hyde Park manor in a visit that would turn to be a turning point for both countries; all as seen through the eyes of his young cousin (Laura Linney). In PLAYING FOR KEEPS (FilmDistrict), Gerard Butler plays a down-on-his-luck ex-soccer star who becomes a youth soccer coach which brings him to the attention of a number of predatory soccer moms, which marks the most times I’ve used the word “soccer” in a single preview.

DECEMBER 19, 2012
MONSTERS, INC 3D (Disney*Pixar) brings the beloved animated feature to 3D and IMAX screens in advance of the prequel coming out next May.

DECEMBER 21, 2012
Based on the popular Lee Child-penned books, JACK REACHER (Paramount) stars Tom Cruise in the title role of an ex-military investigator trying to get a friend off the hook for murders he didn’t commit. THE IMPOSSIBLE (Summit), opening in limited release, recounts the true story of a family’s survival during the Christmas 2004 tsunami. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star. NOT FADE AWAY (Paramount Vantage), also opening in limited release, follows three Jersey boys played by James Gandolfini, Brad Garrett and Christopher McDonald, who inspired by a TV appearance by the Rolling Stones decide to form a band of their own. CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WORLDS AWAY 3D (Paramount) places amazing athletic and acrobatic performances from a variety of the shows in the Cirque du Soleil repertoire and adds special effects and amazing 3D photography.

DECEMBER 25, 2012
DJANGO UNCHAINED (Weinstein) is Quentin Tarantino’s version of a Western as a bounty hunter (Christolph Waltz) utilizes a slave (Jamie Foxx) to help him nab some real bad guys in exchange for liberating the slave’s wife from the plantation owner from Hell. Leonardo di Caprio co-stars. THE GUILT TRIP (Paramount) stars Seth Rogen as an inventor taking his mom – played by the legendary Barbra Streisand – on a cross-country road trip as he tries to not only sell his new invention but also reunite her with her long-lost love as well. PARENTAL GUIDANCE (20th Century Fox) stars Billy Crystal and Bette Midler as a couple of grandparents brought on board to care for their grandkids, but their old school methods clash with the kids’ modern sensibilities and ordered, highly scheduled lifestyle.

DECEMBER 28, 2012
Opening in limited release, PROMISED LAND (Focus) follows a slick corporate salesman (Matt Damon) trying to get the inhabitants of a hard-hit rural town to sell the drilling rights, but he doesn’t count on a grass roots campaign to oppose him. THERESE (LD Entertainment) is a new version of the Emile Zola novel Therese Raquin starring Elizabeth Olsen in the title role.

HOW THEY DID LAST YEAR

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (Paramount) Budget: $145M. Domestic Gross: $209.4M Total: $694.7M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE ADVENTURES OF TIN-TIN (Paramount) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $77.6M Total: $374.0M Verdict: Probably Broke Even.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (Warner Brothers) Budget: $N/A. Domestic Gross: $186.9M Total: $543.9M Verdict: Hit.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Columbia/MGM) Budget: $90M. Domestic Gross: $102.5M Total: $232.6M Verdict: Made Money.
THE IRON LADY (Weinstein) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $30.0M Total: $114.9M Verdict: Hit.
WAR HORSE (DreamWorks) Budget: $66M. Domestic Gross: $79.9M Total: $177.6M Verdict: Made Money.
NEW YEAR’S EVE (New Line) Budget: $56M. Domestic Gross: $54.5M Total: $142.0M Verdict: Made Money.
YOUNG ADULT (Paramount) Budget: $12M. Domestic Gross: $16.3M Total: $22.7 Verdict: Lost Money.
THE ARTIST (Weinstein) Budget: $15M. Domestic Gross: $44.7M Total: $133.4M Verdict: Big Hit.
THE SITTER (20th Century Fox) Budget: $25M. Domestic Gross: $30.4M Total: $34.9M Verdict: Lost Money.
WE BOUGHT A ZOO (20th Century Fox) Budget: N/A. Domestic Gross: $75.6M Total: $120.1M Verdict: Probably Made Money.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: CHIPWRECKED (20th Century Fox) Budget: $75M. Domestic Gross: $133.1M Total: $342.7M Verdict: Big Hit.

So that’s it for the Fall and Holiday preview. I hope at least a few of these little snippets caught your attention and maybe you’re looking at a movie you might not necessarily have been planning to see. Remember; release dates are always subject to change, particularly the farther out you go so be sure and check your local listings before heading out to the theater. This brings the 2012 preview season to a close but that isn’t the end; 2013 is already filling up with some amazing films that I can’t wait to see and you can check out some of them in our 2013 preview, due out at the end of December. Next year, we’ll begin the next phase of the Marvel films, continue with The Hobbit and The Hunger Games franchises and see a plethora of sci-fi and fantasy films eager to establish franchises of their own. Thank you for reading, and until the next time, catch you at the multiplex!