1. The Hunger Games : Catching Fire (Lionsgate, 4,163 Theaters, 146 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Well, it looks like we have finally found our tween-lit adaptation that can carry on Harry Potter’s and Twilight’s success at the box office. Who would have thought teens killing teens for sport would be such a draw?
I kid! I kid! The first installment of the franchise made almost $700 million worldwide, most of it domestically. So that means it gets another shot at completing the book trilogy. It also has the added benefit of its lead actress winning an Oscar between installment, which is always nice.
This time around, rebels have used Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) victory at the last Hunger Games as an inspiration to fight against The Capitol. Becoming too much of a threat, the pair are drafted into the Quarter Quell, a contest between former winners of the games. Once again, she must fight for her life in the Hunger Games.
2. Delivery Man (Touchstone, 3,036 Theaters, 103 Minutes, PG-13): We have a PG-13 comedy about sperm donation. That shows us a lot about how far we have come as a country. I’m just not sure if it’s in a good way or a bad way.
This film, a remake of the 2011 French-Canadian film, Starbuck, features Vince Vaughn as a man who donated copious amounts of sperm 20 years ago. That sperm was used to bring 533 children into the world. Now, 142 of those offspring are suing to find out his real identity.
I don’t know if this is savvy counter programming or sacrificing the film to the wolves. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it makes a dent in The Hunger Games and Thor audiences.
1.The Best Man Holiday (Universal, 2,024 Theaters, 122 Minutes, Rated R): It’s odd that a movie gets a sequel after 14 years, especially a comedy/drama like The Best Man, and it’s even odder that the entire cast is able to come back for the sequel after all this time. But that’s what’s happening again this week with this film.
The college friends have gotten back together over the holidays to recapture the good times. But long-seeded rivalries and passion come to the forefront, causing strife in the reunion. But when the real reason for the reunion comes to like, the true quality of their friendship shines through.
Just a warning, the trailer makes it seem like a joyous comedy of witty back and forth between the friends. However, the film takes a rather serious dramatic turn towards the end and stays on that path throughout the rest of the movie.
1. Thor: The Dark World (Disney, 3,841 Theaters, 112 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Welcome to the grim and gritty Thor. Gone are the silvers and golds of the first film, replaced by a pallet of blues and greys.
This mirrors the shift Thor underwent in the comics as well, from the garish primary colored world of Lee and Kirby to the more rough hewn presentation of Walt Simonson and the old-world styling of J. Michael Stracyznski and Oliver Copiel. So if you are worried about comic fans jumping of because of the style change, don’t . As for the non-comic fans in the original’s audience, well, any fantasy film that looks more like Game of Thrones (this film was directed by that show’s helmer, Alan Taylor) will probably be right up their alley.
This time around, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) faces off against an ancient foe named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who wants to destroy the known universe and remake it in his own image, with Thor’s paramour Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is caught in the crossfire. Thor can not hope to defeat Malekith on his own, so he must turn to the one man he can never trust, his half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), for help.
Return back for a reviews and other fun stuff about the film tomorrow.
2. About Time (Universal, 1,200 Theaters, 123Minutes, Rated R, Opening into wide release on 11/8): As a rule, I’m, not really a fan of romantic comedies. Well, with one exception–any one that Richard Curtis had anything to do with.
To be honest, I have not seen any of the films he did with Bridget Jones in the title, but I have seen and liked Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually. And with that track record, any romantic comedy he has a hand in has to have something going for it.
His latest effort is the film, which redefines the term “high concept.” Domhnall Gleason stars as Tim, a man who discovers that the men in his family have the power to go back in time. He uses this power to do what any red-blooded man would do–go back in time and get himself the perfect girlfriend, who he finds in a woman named Mary (Rachel McAdams). While using time travel to build the perfect relationship might seem easy, Tim finds out that it’s anything but.
3. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight, 1,144 Theaters, 134 Theaters, Rated R, Opening in wide release on 11/8): It’s officially Oscar season, and each year it seems that it keeps getting longer and longer (much like the Christmas season in department stores and shopping malls). And that means that we will be seeing a lot of “Oscar-bait” films. Films from “important” directors, featuring casts loaded to the gills with critical favorites and Oscar nominees, more often than not telling epic and harrowing stories based on true events.
This film has all the markings of an “Oscar bait” film. Only difference is that most Oscar bait film don’t deserve any attention from the Academy and this one does. This film has been buzzed about since it premiered at the Telluride Film Festival back in August, especially for Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance as Solomon Northrup, a free Northern black man kidnapped and sold into slavery, and most likely will be getting some attention on Oscar night.
In a bit of coincidence, it’s fitting this goes wide the same week a comic book film comes out. The screenwriter of this film, John Ridley, has worked in comics, most notably the very good The American Way miniseries from Wildstorm released a couple years back.
1. Free Birds (Relativity, 3,736 Theaters,91 Minutes, Rated PG): If there is a pecking order (no pun intended) in computer animated films, then Pixar would obviously be on the top, followed by DreamWorks. Then maybe non-Pixar Disney, then Fox, and Universal, then Sony, then Warners.
Relaitivity would probably be on the bottom of that particular totem pole, if only for lack of output. And, judging by this offering, it will probably be there for a while.
This film is about two turkeys who come from different classes and social strata that team up so they can go back in time and change history so turkey is not the go-to food for each and every holiday.
Even if you take the turkeys out of the equation, the premise is totally absurd. Monsters University has just come out on video. Rent/buy that and watch that one again.
2. Ender’s Game (Lionsgate/Summit, 3,407 Theaters, 114 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Can we separate the artist from the art he creates? Can we listen to a Michael Jackson song in good conscience with all the child molestation allegations surrounding him? Can we ever sit through a Mel Gibson movie without the words “the Jew cause all the wars” ringing through our heads?
And can we go see this film without thinking of Orson Scott Card’s anti-homosexual statements? This film adapts Card’s legendary series of novels, and it had the unfortunate timing to come into existence right when gay marriage was a hot-button issue. As more and more states allowed gay marriages, more attention was paid to Card’s numerous writings and speeches against homosexual marriages and homosexuals themselves. This caused many gay rights groups to recommend boycotting this film. However, other gay icons have said boycotting the film will not do any good since Card will not make any money from it (a fact backed up by numerous articles that , surprise surprise, started springing up as the film’s release date got closer). Others say see the movie, but donate an equal amount to a LGBT charity.
What am I going to do? Well, it was unlikely I’d see the film anyway. I never read the original books and there are plenty other films out there I’d like to see with my limited movie watching capabilities than this one. But I am definitely not going to see it now. Whether Card gets gross points or has seen all the money he will ever see from the films means nothing. I am unwilling to throw my money behind this film because I cannot abide by Card’s opinions on homosexuals. He may have the right to voice his opinions, but I also have the right to not spend money because I find them abhorrent.
What will you do?
3. Last Vegas (CBS Films, 3,065 Theaters, 105 Minutes, Rated PG-13): It seems like many people want to write this film off as a Hangover for the Geritol set. After all, it’s about four buddies who go to Las Vegas to celebrate the impending marriage of one of their number only to have wild and wacky things happen to them. It seems like the only difference is that they double the ages of the main characters.
But hold on a second. Even if it is a Hangover ripoff, it will be a great one. The four leads, Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline all have Oscars. And there is another Oscar winner in the cast–Mary Steenburgen.
Granted, you can find stinkers in all those actor’s resumes. But I find it hard to believe that with that amount of talent together, this film won’t be at least half decent. I know I laughed at several point in the trailer. So don’t write this one off completely.
1. Carrie (Sony/Screen Gems,3,157 Theaters, 100 Minutes, Rated R): Ah, Carrie. Stephen King’s first published novel and the first of his works to be adapted for the screen. It’s a novel that spawned the 1976 film, a 1988 Broadway musical, a 1999 “sequel to the 1976 film, a 2002 TV remake/pilot, and now another remake. Of course, many will say that every thing after the first film was unnecessary, because that first film was a classic and didn’t really need remaking once, let alone twice. But Hollywood being what it is, a remake we get.
This time around we get a more age-appropriate Carrie ( Chloë Grace Moretz is 16, ten years younger than Sissy Spacek when she played the character) but also a film that was supposed to come out in the spring but was greatly delayed. I remember them promoting this flick at last years New York Comic Con. Supposedly it has been moved to capitalize on the Halloween season, but the studio could just be telling us that.
The remake is 2 minutes longer than the original film. I hope this means that the ending will more closely follow the book and Carrie’s carnage becomes more wide-spread.
2. Escape Plan (Lionsgate/Summit, 2,883 Minutes, 116 Minutes, Rated R): If this film came out in 1985, watch out. It would be like an excuse to print money. Having the two biggest action stars in the world in the same film together? The lines would go around the block.
But Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger never made a film at the height of their popularity. Then Arnold became governor, Sly career waxed and waned, and now, after all these years, the pair are starring in a film with somewhat equal billing.
That’s enough for me. Their films were bonding experiences for me and my dad back in the day, so I am probably going to see this one even though both of them are old enough to file for social security.
Stallone plays a security expert who specializes in finding a way of breaking out of prisons. When he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and put in a prison he designed to be inescapable, he must rely on fellow inmate Arnold to get out.
3. The Fifth Estate (Touchstone, 1,769 Theaters, 128 Minutes, Rated R): To some, Julian Assange is a hero. To others, he’s a reckless egotist who put countless lives in danger. I tend to believe the latter. While I don’t have any problem with shedding light on any country’s atrocities, I think one should think about what innocent people will get hurt if the truth is released unfiltered. I don’t think Assange really cared about that particular ramification.
My opinion is just one about the controversial Assange, and I wonder how the myriad of different views on the man will affect this film’s success. It seems like it is taking an even-handed view on the topic, but Assange himself has repeatedly criticized the film as anti-WikiLeaks propaganda.
Benedict Cumberbatch has gotten good notice as Assange, and Daniel Bruhl is appearing in his second film this month as Assange’s partner in WikiLeaks.
1. Captain Phillips (Sony/Columbia 3,020 screens, 134 minutes, Rated PG-13): It seems unseemly to call this Oscar bait, because, well, every Tom Hanks film should at least be given a cursory Oscar consideration (well, at least the ones not adapted from Dan Brown novels that is). But this does have all the markings.
It is based on the true story (BING!) from the book (BING!) A Captain’s Duty featuring a tale torn from today’s headlines (BING!) about a U.S. marketed ship hijacked by Somali pirates. It is directed Oscar-nominated director (BING!) Paul Greengrass.
Odds are this film will be very good. It will also probably be another Oscar caliber film that will put audiences through the ringer. I don’t know if I can face sitting through two hours of tension, even if I know the ending.
2. Machete Kills (Open Road Films, 2,538 screens, 107 minutes, Rated R): Do people consider 2007′s Grindhouse a failure? I don’t. I think that anybody who says that just didn’t get the point of that film. But even if they did think that, this franchise proves that the original was not a failure at all.
As you may know, Machete appeared as a fake trailer during the fake double feature of Grindhouse. That trailer was expanded to a real movie. That real movie did well enough for this sequel.
I have a special place in my heart for this film. I mean, how can you not? It’s a film that mixes Mel Gibson, Lady Gaga and Charlie Sheen with Sofia Vegara, Damian Bichir and Vanessa Hudgens with Danny Trejo in the lead. And film with that cast has to be awesome. Add explosions, sex and violence, how can the film be bad?
1. Gravity (Warner Brothers, 3,575 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Everyone must have seen an ad for this film (if not, click below). It is an almost perfect piece of advertising. It’s dynamic. It’s grabs you attention. It makes you want to know more.
Of course, it has to be said that one of the things you want to know more of is if Sandra Bullock’s character will spend the whole movie floating slowly to her death. Apparently not.
The film is about novice Bullock joining experienced astronaut George Clooney on a mission in space. When a satellite explodes, it causes a chain reaction that disables their space craft and leaves them without a ride home.The pair must find a way to survive in space long enough for help to arrive.
2. Runner Runner (Fox, 3,024 Theaters, 91 Minutes, Rated R): If it wasn’t for a certain announcement a few weeks ago, this film might have just slipped in and out of theaters unnoticed.
But Warners’ had to go and cast Ben Affleck as Batman, and this, his first acting job since the announcement, will probably be scrutinized by fanboys to see if his acting chops have gotten better since Gigli.
The film focuses on a Princeton grad student named Ritchie (Justin Timberlake) who tracks down an online gambling tycoon named Ivan (Affleck) who he thinks swindled him. To make amends, Ivan offers to bring Ritchie into the business. Unfortunately, Ritchie soon finds out that he signed on for much more than he bargained for, that Ivan is more dangerous than he let on. Complicating matters, the FBI wants Ritchie to help bring Ivan down from the inside.
In other words, it’s the second rehashing of The Firm this year. Since the last one, Paranoia, died a quick and painful death at the box office, it might take more than Batfleck curiosity to keep this one afloat.
1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Sony/Columbia, 4,001 Theaters, 95 Minutes, Rated PG): It’s not often that a 30-year-old children’s book gets adapted as a film. It’s even less often when that film ends up getting a sequel. But that’s what happens this week.
The original Cloudy didn’t actually adapt the original book word for word. The book was a grandfather telling his grandkids a tall tale about a town that rained food. The film was about a scientist who came up with a machine that could turn water into food. Similar yet different.
Don’t expect any similarities between the film’s sequel and the book’s sequel (yes, the book did have a follow up). The book deals with the grandkids dreaming they were helping clean up the city their grandfather spoke about. This film deals with the machine coming back to life and creating a world with sentient food stuffs.
2. Don Jon (Relativity, 2, 422 Theaters, 90 Minutes, Rated R): You have to admire Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s easy to forget that he was once a child actor, Hollywood career paths that start there often end in rehab, the criminal courts or the morgue. He rose all above that and worked hard building a respectable career for himself.
Now, finally, he has made his feature debut as a writer and director (he had done a number of short subjects before) with an offering, in my opinion, is the best bet of the weekend. And the scary part is that he’s only 32. There is no limit to where he could go.
The film centers on an Internet porn addict (Gordon-Levitt) whose viewing habits interfere with him starting a real relationship with a flesh-and-blood woman (Scarlett Johansson).
3. Rush (Universal, Opening in wide release–2,297 Theaters,123 Minutes, Rated R): To be honest, when I first saw the trailer for this film, I thought to myself, “Hey, that guy from Spin City is getting more work!” But it wasn’t Alexander Chaplin playing Niki Lauda, but Spanish actor Daniel Brühl. Don’t know why I told you that. Anyway.
This film, which is entering wide release on Friday, is about the vicious rivalry between Lauda and his main nemesis James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, who must have it in his contract that all of his films have to be released in clumps only weeks away from one another) on the 1970s Formula 1 circuit.
Of course, Formula 1 racing isn’t exactly the most popular sports in the U.S., so it’s doubtful that anyone remembers this rivalry, let alone cares. I don’t know how that will translate at the box office.
4. Baggage Claim (Fox Searchlight, 2,026 Theaters, 96 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I’m not a big fan of modern movie romances. And because I’m a guy and EW! GIRLY STUFF! ICK! ICK! EW!. But for reasons this film typifies.
First off, the protagonists typically are unbelievably beautiful women and men who, if this were real life, would have no lack of suitors lined up. Here we have Paula Patton. She is gorgeous. There should be a line out the door waiting just to have coffee with her. But in this film, she is a woman in danger of becoming the oldest woman of her family never to be married.
Second, these films are high concept to the point of absurdity. To find a suitor, Patton’s character doesn’t go on Match.com or to the local speed dating club. No, fight attendant Patton has her friends at the airline arrange for her to be on the same flight with her ex-boyfriends over the span of a month so she can rekindle a flame. Possibly. The logistics itself makes it laughably ridiculous, but the coincidence that her exes will all be flying on the airline she works for several times in the same month is absurd. And pity the other passengers. They won’t get their bag of peanuts because she is making goo-goo eyes at one of her cast offs.
1. The Family (Relativity, 3,091 Theaters, 110 Minutes, Rated R): Robert DeNiro has done more mafia parts than I can count. Michelle Pfeiffer has done her own share of acting in organized crime films. And Tommy Lee Jones has made a cottage industry on playing law & order types. So, what’s new about this movie?
Well, for one it’s written and directed by Luc Besson of La Femme Nikita, The Professional and The Fifth Element fame. And the family is in the witness protection program in France (which seems to be a bit out of the jurisdiction of the American witness protection program, but what do I know), which is a change.
However, the plot isn’t all that original. The family falls back on the criminal ways while in hiding, endangering their cover and putting them at risk of being discovered, is essentially the same plot as the 1990 Steve Martin/Rick Moranis film, My Blue Heaven. I liked that movie, and I don’t think taking a more down to earth approach on the comedy will be that much of an improvement.
2. Insidious Chapter 2 (FilmDistrict, 3,049 Theaters,105 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Insidious was a surprise hit back in 2011, both with audiences and critics. And if anyone saw that film, you’d know that a sequel would be coming. Well, here it is.
Everything has gone back to normal with the Lambert family after they got their son Dalton back from the Further. Well, except for father Josh (Patrick Wilson). He has changed in sinister and nefarious ways. Did he bring something back from the Further, and, if so, how can the send it back?
Friday the 13th is made for a horror films and this one should do fairly well. But the premise is already stretched a bit thin. Here’s to hoping this one actually has an ending and not a set up for Insidious Chapter 3.
1. Riddick (Universal, 3,107 Theaters, 119 Minutes, Rated R): In 2000, Pitch Black introduced Riddick into the world. The sci-fi became a cult favorite, was an unexpected hit at the box office and jump started Vin Diesel’s career.
The follow up, The Chronicles of Riddick, was a disappointment not only in quality but also in grosses, as it’s PG-13 rating turned off the people who like the violent precursor and failed to bring in the wider audience it was supposed to.
This one seems like a return to the qualities that made the first one so popular, as Riddick is stranded on a hostile land and is forced to fight off deadly beast that live on the planet and vicious mercenaries that came to the planet for the price on his head.