Saturday, March 26, 2011

New In Theaters - April 1st, 2011

Starring: James Marsden, Russell Brand, Kaley Cuoco, Hank Azaria, Gary Cole,
Elizabeth Perkins, David Hasselhoff, Chelsea Handler & Hugh Laurie
Directed by Tim Hill for distribution by Universal

The Plot: A out of work slacker (Marsden) is tricked into taking care of the Easter Bunny’s son (Brand), who ran away to Los Angeles instead of taking over the family business.

The Final Word: “Hop” cleverly blends CGI and live-action to tell this story about an unlikely friendship. Russell Brand lends his voice to the Easter Bunny’s son E.B., who instead of taking over for dear old dad, wants to be a drummer in Hollywood. Upon his arrival, Marsden’s character hits E.B. with his car and the bunny fakes an injury in exchange for a place to stay. It’s actually a fun concept and is (of course) perfectly timed to the upcoming Easter holiday. This will also be the first movie for “The Big Bang Theory’s” Kaley Cuoco since her sitcom premiered. She’ll co-star as Marsden’s love interest, who is also admired by E.B.

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye,
Ty Simpkins & Barbara Hershey
Directed by James Wan for distribution by FilmDistrict

The Plot: A family finds their new house haunted by evil spirits only to realize the root of their problem may not actually be the house.

The Final Word: This new take on the classic haunted house genre comes courtesy of a collaboration of talent from the people behind “Saw” and “Paranormal Activity.” Horror films are notoriously unpredictable, but they have also been a hugely successful as of late. With the pedigree behind this film and a cast led by rising stars Patrick Wilson and “Damages’” Rose Bryne, upstart company FilmDistrict could make a splash if it doesn’t get overshadowed by “Source Code.”

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga & Jeffrey Wright
Directed by Duncan Jones for distribution by Summit Entertainment

The Plot: A soldier (Gyllenhaal) becomes a part of a secret government program known as the “Source Code,” where he is given the ability to travel back in time to eight minutes prior to a terrorist attack.

The Final Word: Director Duncan Jones put himself on the map in 2009 with a little-known film called “Moon.” The indie hit attracted the attention of Summit, which led to this movie, which could probably best be described as “Groundhog Day” with a twist. The son of David Bowie, Jones is slowly making a name for himself and is looking for “Code” to bring him mainstream buzz. The tricky part here is that Gyllenhaal, while known in the mainstream, still hasn’t been able to prove he can consistently open a picture on his own. Yes, “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Day After Tomorrow” did extremely well, but he was also a supporting player in both. While he is a talented actor, his films don’t perform well, with the most obvious example being last year’s high profile dud “Prince of Persia.” Although “Code” is just the right mix of indie, but molded for mainstream viewing, so it is possible he could be a great fit here, but honestly the jury is still out.

Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon & Nathan Fillion
Directed by James Gunn for distribution by IFC Midnight (Films)

The Plot: An ordinary man (Wilson) transforms himself into a superhero after his wife (Tyler) leaves him for a psychopathic drug dealer (Bacon).

The Final Word: This is the definition of an indie film, but it comes with a very mainstream cast, which should earn it some attention. Although Gunn, who also wrote the script, is known for dark and edgy style which could limit its potential audience, but more than likely those going to see it will know ahead of time what to expect.: An ordinary man (Wilson) transforms himself into a superhero after his wife (Tyler) leaves him for a psychopathic drug dealer (Bacon).

Previewed next week: Arthur, Hanna, Born To Be Wild 3D, Your Highness

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New In Theaters - March 25th, 2011

Starring: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Rachael Harris,
Devon Bostick & Steve Zahn
Directed by David Bowers for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: The parents of two feuding brothers try to keep the peace by having them try and spend quality time bonding.

The Final Word: Jeff Kinney’s “Diary Of A Wimpy Kid” book series have sold over 40 million copies, which in today’s Hollywood almost guarantees a movie adaptation. The first film, which was released around this time last year, had an impressive opening weekend and made back all of its money in just three days. Now comes the next installment in the series and I honestly really curious if they can repeat the success of the original.

Starring: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Abbie Cornish, Jamie Chung,
Jena Malone, Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, Oscar Isaac & Scott Glenn
Directed by Zach Synder for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: Locked away in an asylum against her will, a young girl (Browning) enlists the help of four of her fellow captives to escape from their prison and enter a fantasy world of warfare.

The Final Word: Let’s be honest, you can’t really summarize this movie’s plot. I’m not even sure I did it anywhere near justice, but the basic idea is hot girls kicking the ever loving hell out everything and everyone in their way; in IMAX. Directed by Zach Snyder, the man working with Christopher Nolan’s on the next “Superman” re-boot, this fantasy action flick is the type of movie fanboys go crazy over and with good reason. It has a smoking hot cast and basically a release date almost entirely to itself. 

Previewed next week: Hop, Insidious, Source Code

Saturday, March 12, 2011

New In Theaters- March 18, 2011

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, 
Anna Friel & Tomas Arana
Directed by Neil Burger for distribution by Relativity

The Plot: An out-of-work writer (Cooper) discovers a wonder drug designed to let him access 100% of his brain, but finds his newfound intelligence comes with major side effects as well as the interest of a shrewd business mogul (DeNiro) determined to use it for financial gain.

The Final Word: This is a big opportunity for “Hangover” star Bradley Cooper to show he can carry a film without an ensemble to back him. He also won’t exactly be going it alone as Hollywood icon Robert DeNiro is his co-star, but the fact remains it is a great chance for Cooper to shine. He is a very talented actor and Relativity is banking on him to carry this adaptation of author Alan Glynn’s debut novel.

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe,
William H. Macy,  Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena,
Trace Adkins, Katherine Moennig & Erin Carufel
Directed by Brad Furman for distribution by Lionsgate

The Plot: A charismatic and at times morally challenged lawyer (McConaughey), who operates his firm out of his Lincoln Continental car, is drawn into what seems like a straightforward case involving a rich playboy (Phillippe) accused of attempted murder, but soon finds himself in a cat and mouse game of manipulation with possibly deadly consequences.

The Final Word: Some may be hard pressed to name the last movie that McConaughey successfully headlined, but surprisingly it was only a few years back in 2008 when he teamed with Kate Hudson in “Fool’s Gold.” While that may seem like a while ago, by Hollywood standards it is actually in the normal range. Although the year Lionsgate if focused on is 1996, which is the year McConaughey first broke through as a lawyer in John Grisham’s “A Time To Kill.” It is the studio’s hope that McConaughey can reclaim that magic and help them launch what could turn into a new franchise.

Starring: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig,
 Bill Hader,Jane Lynch, Sigourney Weaver, Joe Lo Truglio, 
David Koechner,Blythe Danner & John Carroll Lynch
Directed by Greg Mottola for distribution by Universal

The Plot: Two sci-fi geeks (Frost, Pegg) pick up an alien hitchhiker (voiced by Rogen) on a cross-country journey through America’s UFO heartland and soon find themselves the focus of a government task force designed to re-capture their new friend.

The Final Word: Frost and Pegg are known for their irreverent humor in movies like “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead,” which gives them a built in audience for this picture. The problem will be drawing in the average viewer who may not be familiar with the pair’s across-the-pond following. With a solid cast of supporting actors and Judd Apatow staple Seth Rogen in the mix, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility they could pull off a surprise at the box office.

Previewed next week: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules & Sucker Punch

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Flicks Flashblack- Aaron Eckhart

Today, Columbia Pictures releases “Battle: Los Angeles,” an action film that focuses on an alien invasion. The star of the movie is actor Aaron Eckhart who is best known for his role as Two-Face in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” Although while “Knight” is what really made Eckhart a pop culture icon, he’s always been around the fringes of the Hollywood A-list. 

Here’s your “Flicks Flashback” featuring Aaron Eckhart.

Erin Brockovich (2000)
Total USA Earnings:  $125 million

While “Erin Brockovich” wasn’t Eckhart’s first role, it was probably the one that really put him on the radar with mainstream America. Playing the role of George, Erin’s biker boy-friend, Eckhart took on a strong but important supporting character. Through that part, awareness of this versatile actor began to pick up and more A-level roles began to find their way to him.

The Core (2003)
Total USA Earnings:  $31 million

As is the case with all actors, sometimes an increased number of roles don’t always lead to an increased number of hits. 2003’s end of the world action film “The Core,” on paper looked like a good idea. It had Hilary Swank, Stanley Tucci and Bruce Greenwood on board and a premise that was (at the time) very profitable for Hollywood. Although the critics quickly turned on it and then so did audiences. Despite a respectable (again, at the time) $12 million third place opening, the movie quickly half-lifed its way down the charts and out of theaters. It just wasn’t one of higher quality movies of its genre.

Thank You For Smoking (2005)
Total USA Earnings: $24 million

Following the implosion of “The Core,” Eckhart went back to his independent roots. He starred in “Thank You For Smoking,” a satirical look at the tobacco industry and their lobbyist spin doctors.  The feature-length directorial debut of Jason Reitman (son of “Ghostbusters” director Ivan) was a critical hit and began finding its way into contention for a number of awards. Eckhart himself was nominated for both an Independent Spirit Award and a Golden Globe.  The movie also turned a small profit as it only cost $6.5 million to make.

No Reservations (2007)
Total USA Earnings: $43 million

After the critical success of “Smoking,” Eckhart returned to the mainstream in “The Black Dahlia” which despite a strong pedigree among its cast and crew stumbled out of the starting gate. Although Eckhart quickly got back in the game, with “No Reservations,” a romantic comedy opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones. Released during the height of the summer movie season, the film was a welcomed relief to people tired of the big budget action films that traditionally dominate the season. Again, it was only a mild hit domestically, but it also managed to match that total in the international market.

The Dark Knight (2009)
Total USA Earnings $533 million

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” dominated from week one and this Oscar winning film would go on to top $1 billion worldwide. Eckhart starred as Harvey Dent, the alter ego of Batman’s eventual nemesis Two-Face.  It was a defining moment in the actor’s career and one that he will always be associated with his filmography.

Eckhart followed that role with a turn as Jennifer Aniston’s love interest in “Love Happens” and then Nicole Kidman’s husband in “Rabbit Hole.” While nothing happened with “Love,” “Rabbit Hole” put him back in contention for awards season. While it was his co-star who eventually received the Oscar nomination, it was the still talked about success of “Knight” that made him a strong contender in what proved to be a tight race.

That brings us to the present and “Battle: Los Angeles.” Eckhart once again is set to take a leading role and looks to be in prime position to take the box office by storm.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New In Theaters - March 11th, 2011

Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez,
Bridget Moynahan, Ne-Yo & Michael Pena
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman for distribution by Columbia (Sony)

The Plot: For years conspiracy theorists have claimed the existence of UFOs was being covered up; but what if they were right? After many early and ignored signs, Los Angeles finds itself under attack from hostile visitors the likes of which the world has never seen and a Marine staff sergeant (Eckhart) finds his platoon may be the world’s last hope.

The Final Word: Aliens attacking Los Angeles isn’t a new concept, but that has never stopped Hollywood from trying to put a new spin on it. Director Jonathan Liebseman is a hot property these days and Columbia believes his touch will attract audiences to this movie, whose concept is reportedly (loosely) based on an incident during World War II known as the “Battle of Los Angeles.” Although the irony here is that Disney has selected the same weekend for its animated alien pseudo-attack film. Of course they are targeting two extremely different audiences, but I can’t remember the last time to similarly themed went head to head on the same opening weekend. Now that will be a battle!

Starring (voices): Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois,
Mindy Sterling, Kevin Cahoon & Joan Cusack
Directed by Simon Wells for distribution by Walt Disney Pictures

The Plot: A nine year old (Green) stows away on a spaceship to Mars after the Martians kidnapped his mother (Cusack) to act as a surrogate for their kids.

The Final Word: So while Columbia has aliens attacking Los Angeles, Disney has them kidnapping Earth mothers. The main plot difference here is that while “Battle” takes place on Earth, most of “Mars” takes place in space. Based on the book by Berkeley Breathed, this 3D/CGI/IMAX film is from the same producers of Disney “A Christmas Carol” and Warner’s “The Polar Express,” so they clearly have the whole added dimension thing down by this point, which should help remedy some of the 3D problems that has gripped the studios as of late.

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, 
Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Virginia Madsen & Julie Christie
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: A medieval village is targeted by a werewolf in this update of the classic fairy tale with a dark undertone.

The Final Word: “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke returns to theaters in a movie that could very well be a different version of the popular teen book series she helped launch, complete with werevolves. Here rising star Amanda Seyfried steps into the iconic red cape and in this adaptation falls for woodcutter with a bad reputation. Hardwicke is major draw for the teen sect and she has two popular young leads that will bring audiences to theaters. The only major drawback is that this is going to be prove to be a busy week for the sci-fi/fantasy genre and it result in lower grosses across the board.

Previewed next week: Limitless, The Lincoln Lawyer, Paul