Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Flicks Flashforward: 2012 Preview

Here’s a look at the most anticipated films of 2012!

The Hunger Games

The Avengers

Men In Black 3



The Amazing Spider-Man

The Dark Knight Returns


The Twilight Saga : Breaking Dawn -  Part II

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Flicks Flashback - "Best Movies Of 2011"

Starring (voices): Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin,
Bill Nighy, Stephen Root, Ray Winstone, Beth Grant,
Ned Beatty, Harry Dean Stanton & Alfred Molina
Directed by Gore Verbinski for distribution by Paramount

The Plot: A chameleon who daydreams about being a hero suddenly finds himself in the role when he becomes a small town’s only hope against bandits.

The Final Word: The most telling thing about this movie wasn’t its plot or voice talent, but its director. Gore Verbinski, known for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, stepped into the world of animation for the first time, with “Pirates” star Johnny Depp accompanying him. The versatile director also took his first stab at writing for a full-length motion picture. Combined all of those details combined gave “Rango” and Paramount an early 2011 success at the box office. With Verbinski declining to return to the helm of the “Pirates” franchise last summer, this movie was the only chance audiences got to see him and Depp re-unite on screen for the foreseeable future and they made sure to take full advantage.

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster,
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, & Matt Schulze
Directed by Justin Lin for distribution by Universal

The Plot: Backed into a corner in Rio de Janeiro, the “Fast & Furious” crew must pull off one more heist to reclaim their lives, but at the same time must contend with a new tough as nails federal agent assigned to bring them down.

The Final Word: To say that the return of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker to their most famous roles was a success is an under-statement.  Universal, the studio behind the movie, not only got to claim a major box office victory, but they actually got to re-write the record books following an $80 million opening weekend. While many expected a strong debut, the end result was actually pretty astounding. “Fast Five” not only posted one of the highest 3-day grosses of the year, but it looks gave Universal its highest opening EVER (topping 1997’s “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” $72.1 million). With two more sequels now green-lit, this franchise may not run out of gas in their tank for a long time to come.

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne,
Wendi McLendon-Covey, Ellie Kemper, Melissa McCarthy & Jill Clayburgh
Directed by Paul Feig for distribution by Universal

The Plot: After learning her lifelong best friend is getting married, a woman goes through the trials and tribulations of being her maid of honor.

The Final Word: At first glance, this was seen as Universal’s attempt at replicating the success of Warner Brothers’ “The Hangover,” and following the underwhelming performance of its debut trailer that description seemed accurate. Wow, was the industry wrong! It is hard to overlook a comedy that combined featured a number of women who had been such an instrumental part some of the most successful comedy series of all time, but people initially did and then a really rare thing happened; the public and its most vocal critics changed their minds. No longer the proverbial bridesmaid, the comedy could truly get the last laugh at (believe it or not) this year’s Oscars.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor, Mike Tyson,
Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong, Liam Neeson & Bryan Callen
Directed by Todd Phillips for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: A group of friends head to Thailand to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of their own, but in celebrating accidentally lose the bride’s young brother.

The Final Word: “The first “Hangover” was definitely a shock to the box office and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that in the mind of the moviegoer nothing can ever replace a good old fashioned comedy. The movie came out of nowhere to earn almost $45 million in its opening weekend and later go on to collect a total haul of over $200 million. Studios knew the sequel would be a big hit when the film’s Thursday midnight screenings nationally collected over $10 million, but as it turns out that was the tip of the iceberg. “The Wolfpack” continued to howl throughout the holiday weekend and over the four day frame the comedy earned $118.1 million, giving it the highest opening for a Memorial Day weekend, which tops the $85.7 million “Bruce Almighty” took in back in 2003. By the time the five day opening weekend period rolled around, “Hangover II” should amassed close to $140 million, which made it the highest opening comedy of all time and the highest opening “R” rated movie ever. In a world of 3D overload, it’s easy to forget sometimes audiences just wanted to find a way to laugh and that’s why this one worked.

Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard,
Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Sissy Spacek,
Jessica Chastain, Octavia Spencer, Cicely Tyson & Mike Vogel
Directed by Tate Taylor for distribution by Walt Disney

The Plot: A secret writing project by a young woman sets into motion a friendship that goes against the grain of race relations in 1960’s Mississippi.

The Final Word: Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, the movie placed rising star Emma Stone in the role of a socialite who befriended the African-American help at her family’s plantation. As her relationship with the extraordinary women grew her ability to give them a voice in a time where they didn’t have one resonated with audiences. A solid contender for some of Hollywood’s top prizes before it even bowed in theaters, “The Help” lived up to and then exceed expectations.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman,
Robin Wright, Stephen Bishop, Kathyrn Morris & Chris Pratt
Directed by Bennett Miller for distribution by Columbia Pictures (Sony)

The Plot: The true story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane who defied conventional logic to construct a playoff caliber baseball team.

The Final Word: When baseball fans found out that one of baseball’s Bibles was being brought to the screen with Brad Pitt in the lead role and Aaron Sorkin at the typewriter, they scoffed. Yet, they were also among the first people in line to see it. Pitt, Sorkin and director Bennett Miller (“Capote”) proved to be a power trio are all garnering Oscar buzz with good reason. “Moneyball” appealed to both fans of the game and casual viewers who jump in and out throughout the long season.  Incidentally this is actually the second version of the movie being produced by Sony as the first one was canned due to its high budget; ironic huh?

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner,
Peter Facinelli, Ashley Greene, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone,
Elizabeth Reaser, Nikki Reed, Billy Burke, Rami Malek & Maggie Grace
Directed by Bill Condon for distribution by Summit Entertainment

The Plot: As Edward and Bella prepare for the impending birth of their child, they must avoid their multiple enemies who are determined to protect their own kind no matter what the costs.

The Final Word: Despite the box office’s recent struggles, Summit knew they had a blockbuster in waiting with “Dawn.” The problem here is that the studio also knew they only had one more “Twilight” bullet left in its chamber before it and the industry as a whole would have to look elsewhere for a Cineplex stabilizer. For as much as 2011 was concerned, that is a problem for another day as “Dawn” banked $140 million over its first weekend and now is over the $250 million mark.

Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones, Alan Arkin,
Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Zach Galifianakis, Kathy Griffin,
Emily Blunt, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy,
Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Animal & Walter
Directed by James Bobin for distribution by Walt Disney Pictures

The Plot: After years out of the spotlight, the Muppets band together to save their one-time legendary theater from a greedy developer determined to tear it down.

The Final Word: If you didn’t know the Muppets were coming back to theaters, you really may have been living under a rock, because Kermit and friends have been everywhere this year. Co-written by and starring “How I Met Your Mother’s” Jason Segel, the film re-cemented the classic Jim Henson characters status as pop culture kings. With an arsenal of celebrities signed on for cameos and built-in name recognition, this was easily one of the fall’s most anticipated films. With 99% of the country’s top critics praising the movie, even many who had remainined unconvinced that Segel and crew could successfully re-captured the tone and magic that made the Muppets a hit in the 70’s are being forced to take a second look.

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Josh Holloway,
Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Lea Seydoux & Anil Kapoor
Directed by Brad Bird for distribution by Paramount Pictures

The Plot: Framed for an international incident, the MI6 team is disbanded and forced to find the real culprit while on the run from the authorities.

The Final Word: Following the success of the “Mission: Impossible 3,” a fourth installment in the action franchise was really an easy decision even if it did take five years to hit theaters. Helmed by Brad Bird in his live-action directorial debut, the film (based on the long-running TV series) reunited audiences with Ethan Hunt and his ever-changing team, including a new character played by Jeremy Renner who is rumored to be taking over the franchise from Cruise going forward (with his blessing). Yet the most surprising part of the film’s debut was its opening week box office earnings. Initially bowing exclusively in IMAX and playing on only 400+ screens nationwide, the action film earned $12 million in its first frame. Granted a lot of success can be traced to a combination of inflated IMAX ticket prices and Warner Brother’s six-minute “The Dark Knight Rises” preview playing in front of it, but let’s call a spade a spade, given the economy those numbers are impressive.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New In Theaters - December 20th - 25th, 2011

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Josh Holloway,
Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Lea Seydoux & Anil Kapoor
Directed by Brad Bird for distribution by Paramount Pictures

The Plot: Framed for an international incident, the "IMF" team is disbanded and forced to find the real culprit while on the run from the authorities.

The Final Word: Following the success of the “Mission: Impossible 3,” a fourth installment in the action franchise was really an easy decision even if it did take five years to hit theaters. Helmed by Brad Bird in his live-action directorial debut, the film (based on the long-running TV series) reunites audiences with Ethan Hunt and his ever-changing team, including a new character played by Jeremy Renner who is rumored to be taking over the franchise from Cruise going forward.

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost,
Gad Elmaleh, Toby Jones & Mackenzie Crook
Directed by Steven Spielberg for distribution by Paramount

The Plot: An intrepid reporter and his dog join a sea captain in a quest for a sunken treasure ship’s haul.

The Final Word: Already a hit internationally, the movie opens in the USA this week with a built in audience familiar with the animated character’s adventures. Although while Tintin has always been a hit overseas, he’s not as big domestically, but with Spielberg and “Lord of the Rings” guru Peter Jackson running the show, Paramount is going to give this every chance to succeed.

Starring: Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård,
Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Yorick van Wageningen & Joely Richardson
Directed by David Fincher for distribution by Columbia

The Plot: A journalist enlists a disturbed computer hacker to help him solve the mysterious disappearance of a long-missing heiress.

The Final Word: Based on the best-selling novels that have taken the world by storm, the David Fincher directed adaptation is finally ready to unspool in theaters. Truthfully, if you aren’t already aware of the buzz behind the film, you probably aren’t going to see it, no matter what is written about it.

Starring: Zana Marjanović, Goran Kostić, Rade Šerbedžija,
Vanesa Glodjo & Nikola Djurićko
Directed by Angelina Jolie for distribution by FilmDistrict

The Plot: The relationship between a Bosnian solider and a female prisoner of war plays out during the deadly Balken conflict of the 1990’s.

The Final Word: While the Oscar winning Angelina Jolie isn’t starring in the pic, she is making her directorial debut with it and that’s a story within itself The vastly talented actress hasn’t definitely not gone for an easy project her first time out of the gate, but she has gone for one with a plot she’s passionate about, given her long-standing charity work with the war torn area from which the movie takes place.

Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church,
Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning & John Michael Higgins
Directed by Cameron Crowe for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: A single father buys a zoo in a desperate attempt to shake up his and his family’s life.

The Final Word: Cameron Crowe broke through in 1996 with “Jerry Maguire” and he’s been unable to launch a similarly successful blockbuster since that time. While he’s had a few solid hits, he hasn’t been able to match “Maguire’s” pop culture appeal, but some believe “Zoo” could be that vehicle. Based on a true story, the movie has been generating Oscar buzz for Damon and may be just the picture Johansson has been looking for to re-start her momentum going into next year’s “Avengers.”

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby, Max Minghella
Rachael Taylor & Joel Kinnaman
Directed by Chris Gorak for distribution by Summit Entertainment

The Plot: Five youths find themselves fighting for their lives when they become stranded in Moscow following a devastating alien attack.

The Final Word: Because nothing says holidays like an internationally set battle again aliens in 3D. Not sure much more needs to be said on this one.

Starring: Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Peter Mullan, Niels Arestrup,
Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irvine, Benedict Cumberbatch & Toby Kebbell
Directed by Steven Spielberg for distribution by DreamWorks

The Plot: Forcibly separated from his owner, a horse ends up on a harrowing journey across Europe during World War I.

The Final Word: Every few years Steven Spielberg breaks away from the world of fantasy and adventure that he undisputedly owns, to make a film dripping in Oscar-bait. Adapted from the Tony winning play, which itself was adapted from a very successful book, “Horse” is the type of movie Academy voters dream about rewarding, which means you are going to hear a lot about it for the next three months. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New In Theaters - December 16th, 2011

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Noomi Rapace, Jared Harris,
Eddie Marsan, Stephen Fry & Rachel McAdams
Directed by Guy Ritchie for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: The famed literary detective Sherlock Holmes, along with his loyal friend Dr. Watson, go head to head with the villainous Professor Moriarty in a deadly game of one upmanship.

The Final Word: In 2008 Robert Downey Jr. began what has amounted to quite possibly one of the bigger  industry comebacks ever. Now the actor is set to reprise one of the roles that brought him back to the top with Sherlock Holmes. Along with co-star Jude Law and director Guy Ritchie, Warner Brothers has seen some very strong buzz for one of its strongest franchises and many believe this one could help shake the box office out of its rut. 

Starring: Jason Lee, David Cross, Jenny Slate, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler,
Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris & Christina Applegate
Directed by Mike Mitchell for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: The vacationing Chipmunks along with Dave Seville and the Chipettes find themselves stranded on a not-so-deserted island following a mishap on board a cruise ship.

The Final Word: Say what you want about the quality of the movies or the “need” for another one but to date the film franchise has netted almost a half billion dollars. After the first one earned $215 million in 2007, the “squeakquel” matched that sum (and slightly built on it) just two years later. So it is safe to say that as long as they keep making money, FOX will keep making them.

Previewed next week: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Adventures of Tintin, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New In Theaters - December 9th, 2011

Starring: Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, 
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, 
Hector Elizondo, Katherine Heigl,Ashton Kutcher, Seth Meyers, 
Lea Michele, Sarah Jessica Parker,Michelle Pfeiffer, 
Til Schweiger, Hilary Swank & Sofia Vergara 
Directed by Garry Marshall for distribution by New Line Cinemas (WB)

The Plot: A series of inter-twining tales about the lives of New Yorkers on New Year’s Eve.

The Final Word: A pseudo-sequel to last year’s “Valentine’s Day,” audiences are going to have the same reaction; you are either going to love it or resent everything it stands for. Granted, it probably depends on if you’re in a relationship or not when you’re seeing it, but the point is that New Line and Warner Brothers aren’t looking for an Oscar here, they are looking to have a successful romantic comedy holiday hit that can continue to perform for them many years down the line and the truth is the vast majority of Americans will have a great time seeing this the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Starring: Jonah Hill, Sam Rockwell, Max Records,
Kevin Hernandez, Landry Bender, J.B. Smoove & Method Man
Directed by David Gordon Green for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: A suspended college student gets conned into babysitting a group of kids that he has no chance of controlling.

The Final Word: It just goes to show how long it takes movies to get made as this was filmed back when Jonah Hill was still a little on the heavy side. Now the suddenly single star is set to close out 2011 with his former look in a new comedy with shades of “Adventures In Babysitting.” Whether it can top “New Year’s Day” remains to be seen, but Hill has his fans (outside of his failed FOX series “Allen Gregory” that is) and this should find an audience of some sort.

Starring: Gary Oldman, Ciaran Hinds, Jared Harris, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy,
Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong & Svetlana Khodchenko
Directed by Tomas Alfredson for distribution by Focus Features

The Plot: A disgraced former spy is brought back out of retirement to search for a spy inside the British Secret Service following the end of the Cold War.

The Final Word: Gary Oldman is one of the industry’s more respected and talented actors, yet he’s never received an Oscar nomination. This year though, he stands a real chance of breaking through and finally being recognized for his talents. Credit should also be given Focus Features for shifting the film’s release date right into the heart of awards season.

Previewed next week: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows & Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked