Saturday, April 30, 2011

New In Theaters - May 6th, 2011

Starring: Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Mike Epps & Loretta Devine
Directed by Salim Akil for distribution by TriStar (Sony)

The Plot: Two families from vastly different backgrounds meet for the first time during a wedding weekend in Martha’s Vineyard.

The Final Word: These type of urban-based comedies normally really draw in viewers and with the director of the suddenly on fire BET hit “The Game” at the helm, audiences could be in for a treat.

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, 
John Krasinski & Steve Howey
Directed by Luke Greenfield for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: Two best friends (Goodwin, Hudson) clash when one unknowingly sleeps with the other’s fiancĂ©e (Egglesfield).

The Final Word: For Ginnifer Goodwin, “Big Love” couldn’t have ended at a better time as the star of the long-running HBO drama is really beginning to come into her own. Here she’ll team with romantic comedy veteran Kate Hudson, in what seems like on the surface a very straight-forward premise that we’ve seen before. Although audiences who aren’t into the superhero genre may be looking for the anti-action film this weekend and “Borrowed” certainly fits that category. Warner Brothers also knows it will have to strike fast because Universal’s “Bridemaids,” starts the following week and is targeting the same demographic.

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, 
Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgard, Jaimie Alexander, Kat Dennings, 
Ray Stevenson, Josh Dallas,Tadanobu Asano, Idris Elba,
 Clark Gregg, Colm Feore & Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by Kenneth Branagh for distribution by Paramount/Marvel

The Plot: A talented but arrogant warrior (Hemsworth) from another world is banished to Earth where he meets a group of scientists that help mold him into a true hero.

The Final Word: For comic book fans, the road to next summer’s “The Avengers” begins here and they couldn’t be more excited. After the success of “Iron Man” and to a lesser extent “The Incredible Hulk,” the framework for Marvel’s superhero ensemble pic is slowly coming together and the studio is banking on the relatively unknown Hemsworth to bring it home. Based on early footage and interviews it looks very likely that “Thor” will follow the same roadmap that made Robert Downey Jr.’s “Iron Man” a massive hit and that’s good news for both Paramount and Marvel considering how hard it is to please the fanboy community. 

Previewed next week: Bridemaids, Priest

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New In Theaters - April 29th, 2011

Starring: Brandon Routh, Sam Huntington, Anita Briem, 
Peter Stormare & Taye Diggs
Directed by Kevin Munroe for distribution by Freestyle Releasing

The Plot: A private eye to the undead must track down a mysterious artifact before a war breaks out over it among the supernatural forces of New Orleans.

The Final Word: Brandon Routh, who aside from a recurring role on “Chuck,” has by and large stayed out of the mainstream, since his ill-fated “Superman Returns” flopped in theaters. Although don’t forget that fans don’t blame Routh for the train-wreck of a reboot and could be willing to give his next prospective franchise a chance. Freestyle is trying to adapt the popular Dylan Dog comic to the mainstream, but this is a stacked weekend at the box office which could prove difficult for the debut release. Then again, the studio probably knows that and would be happy with a modest premiere.

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 (Diesel, Walker, 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 (Johnson) assigned to bring them down.

The Final Word: This franchise literally never seems to run out of gas in their tank (and yes pun intended). After the success of 2009’s “Fast & Furious,” Universal couldn’t greenlight a fifth film fast enough. Once again reteaming a number of “FF” alums, the familiar faces will add Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into the mix making this an even more star-studded cast.

Starring (voices): Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader,
Amy Poehler, David Alan Grier, Andy Dick, Brad Garrett,
Martin Short, Patrick Warburton, Cheech Marin & Tommy Chong
Directed by Mike Disa for distribution by The Weinstein Company

The Plot: Red (Panettiere) returns to active duty with the Happily Ever After Agency (HEA), after a wicked witch (Cusack) kidnaps two innocent children, who happened to be named Hansel (Hader) and Gretel (Poehler).

The Final Word: Similar to how “Shrek” re-invented the fractured fairy tale world; the “Hoodwinked” series takes audiences in the same direction. After the modest success of the first movie, most of the original voice cast (sans Anne Hathaway) will return for the sequel, which looks to try and build up a new franchise.

Starring: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, Danielle Campbell, Yin Chang,
Kylie Bunbury, Nicholas Braun, Jared Kusnitz, Jonathan Keltz, De’Vaughn Nixon,
Nolan Sotillo, Cameron Monaghan, Joe Adler, Janelle Ortiz, Raini Rodriguez
Directed by Joe Nussbaum for distribution by Walt Disney

The Plot: As one school’s prom slowly approaches, a series of inter-connecting tales play out leading up to the most memorable night in the life of a high school student.

The Final Word: Originally “Friday Night Lights” star Aimee Teegarden was really the only well-known actress attached to the cast, but as it turns out the ensemble will also feature another rising TV star in Cameron Monaghan, who has a starring role in Showtime’s “Shameless.” While Teegarden’s character still is more of the lead, it is interesting how fast Monaghan’s stock has risen in just four months. It’s also entirely possible that a number of other actors in the cast will soon be hitting it big as well as Disney is historically a launching pad for new stars.

Previewed next week: Something Borrowed, Thor

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Flicks Flashback- Reese Witherspoon

Following the success of “Pretty Woman,” Julia Roberts became known as “America’s Sweetheart.” While the Oscar winning actress will always be known by that moniker, fellow actress (and Oscar winner) Resse Witherspoon has slowly earned that same level of respect and fame. Today, she headlines the FOX release “Water For Elephants,” an romantic drama based on the highly successful novel by Sara Gruen. With a string of successful box office films under her belt and a litany of awards, it’s interesting to look back at Witherspoon’s early breakthrough roles that would eventually lead to her bankable A-lister status.

Here’s your “Flicks Flashback” featuring Reese Witherspoon.

Pleasantville (1998) / Cruel Intentions (1999) / Election (1999)

Total USA Earnings:  $40 million / $38 million/ $14 million

Over the course of eight months, Resse Witherspoon appeared in three movies that combined didn’t reach $100 million. While in this decade that could be looked at as a string of failures, the simple fact is that each of those movies either made back its original investment or vastly improved on it; and that’s not even the most important part of the story. These movies allowed Witherspoon the type of public exposure few actress have had in this day and age. As a result, she was able to show she could handle herself in a wide range of genres that in the end not only put her on the map with moviegoers, but with the critics.

Legally Blonde (2001)
Total USA Earnings: $95 million

While audiences knew of Witherspoon, she was still on the fringes of the A-list, despite the high profile company she kept onscreen. At the time (newly) married to her “Cruel Intentions” co-star Ryan Philippe, she was slowly beginning to gain some media traction. All she needed was that one break-out role and she found in the most unlikely place. Witherspoon not only took on the “blonde” stereotype but she firmly embraced it. “Legally Blonde” opened in the summer of 2001 to a $20 million opening; the highest yet of her career. All of sudden, Witherspoon was a household name and on the verge of being one of the most bankable young stars in Hollywood.

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
Total USA Earnings: $127 million

While Witherspoon had a big success with “Blonde,” she still didn’t have a $100 million blockbuster on her resume. Furthermore executives wanted to make sure her big break wasn’t a big fluke. The next year she silenced all of her critics with “Sweet Home Alabama.” Starring alongside the Josh Lucas and Patrick Dempsey (before he was “McDreamy”), Reese saw her latest romantic comedy bow to a $35 million opening weekend. The movie essentially made back its entire production budget in just three days and would eventually haul in $127 million. Witherspoon had basically arrived!

Walk The Line (2005)
Total USA Earnings $119 million

After dominating the romantic comedy genre, she returned to her dramatic roots and took on the role of June Carter Cash. Following her early success in the genre it was no surprise that critics had labeled her an early frontrunner for award season. In the end, her portrayal of the wife of music icon Johnny Cash earned her an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actor Guild award and a slew of national film critic’s prizes. The result of which cemented Reese’s place as the next “America’s Sweetheart.”

Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)
Total USA Earnings: $198 million

Unfortunately with the sweet came the sour, Witherspoon’s marriage to Philippe unraveled as did her next four films. Nothing was clicking for the actress, but then DreamWorks came calling with its debut run at the next generation of animated movies. This was a huge risk for the studio as it was championing a new 3D technology that many weren’t completely ready to welcome. Although enough people embraced it as the movie grossed close to $200 million, which was enough for big both DreamWorks and Witherspoon to make a pop culture impact.

While her most recent film “How Do You Know” faltered at the box office in big way, Witherspoon’s image has not wilted at all, which brings us back to the present and this weekend’s “Water For Elephants.” Now newly remarried and with an array of very interesting and anticipated projects rumored to be in the pipeline, Reese is once again in the spotlight and once again poised to regain her spot atop the box office.

“Water For Elephants” is now in theaters.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

New In Theaters - April 22nd, 2011

Starring: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Shad "Bow Wow" Moss, 
David Mann,Cassi Davis, Tamela Brown Mann, 
Lauren London, Isaiah Mustafa &Rodney Perry
Directed by Tyler Perry for distribution by Lionsgate

The Plot: After her niece (Devine) receives some scary news about her health, it becomes up to Madea (Perry) to gather her self-occupied family together to tackle it as a family, no matter how dysfunctional they are as a group.

The Final Word: Coming off the surprising flop “For Colored Girls,” Perry is probably relishing the chance to step back into the Madea role one more time. In fact, how’s this for a statistic? Every time Perry dons the Madea costume, his movie opens to at least a $20 million debut. In fact, his lowest ever opening for film in which he had a leading role is only $17 million. Whether you’re a fan of Perry’s or not, the simple fact remains he is a box office force.

Starring: Robert Pattison, Resse Witherspoon & Christoph Waltz
Directed by Francis Lawrence for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: Following the tragic death of his parents, a veterinary student (Pattinson) drops out of college to take up with the circus where he falls for the wife (Witherspoon) of the cruel ringmaster (Waltz).

The Final Word: The last time Robert Pattison stepped outside of his “Twilight” comfort zone, the results didn’t go in his favor. You can expect a much different result this time around as the teen heartthrob teams up with a pair of Academy Award winners for this adaptation of the popular book. FOX will have not only the “Twilight” fanbase interested, but also the appeal of the very likeable Witherspoon and the incredibly talented Waltz. The combination of these three should easily make this a popular film at the box office. Although can it outperform Tyler Perry’s latest installment in his ultra-successful Madea series?

Previewed next week: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, Fast Five, Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil & Prom

Saturday, April 9, 2011

New In Theaters - April 15th, 2011

Starring (voices): Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, George Lopez,
Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, Leslie Mann, & Jamie Foxx
Directed by Carlos Saldanha for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: A macaw (Eisenberg) leaves the comforts of his owner’s home to follow a potential mate (Hathaway) across the globe, only to end up in Rio de Janeiro during the height of Carnival, along with the many new friends he’s encounter along the way.

The Final Word: From the people who brought the “Ice Age” trilogy to the screen comes this new 3D animated feature. Director Carlos Saldanha, who helmed all of the “Ice” movies, could easily have himself another franchise to play with if this new movie catches on with audiences. Judging by the runaway success of kid-friendly films as of late, FOX could really be in for some luck here, especially after the movie’s recent partnership with the iPad staple “Angry Birds” worked to record breaking levels.

Starring: Neve Campbell, David Arquette, Courteney Cox Arquette,
Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Marley Shelton, Anthony Anderson,
Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell & Brittany Roberts
Directed by Wes Craven for distribution by Dimension Films

The Plot: Ten years after the events of the last film, Sidney Prescott (Campbell) returns back to her hometown as part a book tour, only to learn someone else has taken on the mantel of Ghostface.

The Final Word: In the 1990’s “Scream” was arguably one of the most dominating franchises around. It targeted the teen demographic in a very unique way and the end result was a trilogy which re-invigorated its genre. Now just over a decade later, Dimension is hoping to reboot the series with “Scream 4,” and could very well once again capture lighting in a bottle. The reason why this will be a success is because the studio is playing it smart and NOT changing what already works. They are taking a proven formula, adding in a new group of hot rising stars and seamlessly mixing in it in with its trio of returning veterans. The end result should be another smash hit.

Previewed next week: Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family & Water For Elephants

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New In Theaters - April 8th, 2011

Starring: Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig,
Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte & Jennifer Garner
Directed by Jason Winer for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: A trust fund playboy (Brand) with zero ambition must fend for himself when he is cut off from his inheritance after he refuses to marry the woman (Garner) his family has chosen on his behalf. 

The Final Word: In 1981, Dudley Moore brought to life a character that would later earn him an Academy Award nomination.  A happy drunk with no ambition whatsoever; the character’s name was Arthur. Now thirty years later, comedian Russell Brand is about to slip into Arthur’s expensive shoes and remind audiences why they fell for this lovable lothario in the first place. Although this will be Brand’s second movie released in a two week span. Could audiences be in for a “Brand” overload? I don’t envy Warner Brothers, as it is hard enough to launch a movie by itself, much less one where your lead actor is basically competing against himself for number one at the box office.

Starring: Morgan Freeman
Directed by David Lickley for distribution by Warner Brothers

The Plot: A documentary focusing on orphaned orangutans & elephants and the people who come to their aid.

The Final Word: Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this nature film was shot in IMAX 3D across Borneo and Kenya. It profiles world-renowned primatologist Dr. Birute Galdikas and noted elephant specialist Dame Daphne Sheldrick, as they go about their work in the field preventing these amazing animals from extinction.

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett, Eric Bana, Jason Flemyng,
Tom Hollander & Olivia Williams
Directed by Joe Wright for distribution by Focus Features

The Plot: A trained sixteen year old assassin (Ronan) is dispatched by her father (Bana) on a mission, only to be tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent (Blanchett) and her throngs of operatives.

The Final Word: Between “Arthur” and “Your Highness” I have every reason to believe this movie will be overshadowed at the box office. Although this is Focus Features and they’ve pulled off shockers before, but I just don’t see this falling to either of the two comedies it’s up against. Nothing against the film or its talented cast, but this honestly looks like a movie you may stumble upon on a cable channel in a few years and get sucked into for an hour or two. Then again Ronan (who at age 16 already has one Academy Award nomination) is already receiving rave reviews and Blanchett has become the definition of Oscar-bait, so this movie could still find a second life down the road.

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, AnnaSophia Robb, Carrie Underwood,
Lorraine Nicholson, Kevin Sorbo & Jeremy Sumpter
Directed by Sean McNamara for distribution by TriStar Pictures (Sony)

The Plot: The true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton (Robb), a young prodigy on the water who has her dreams shattered when a shark attack leaves her unable to perform. Although through her determination, Bethany fights to return to the sport she loves and overcome her handicap.

The Final Word: No doubt this uplifting story’s biggest asset is its cast, which includes Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood and Helen Hunt (who has seemingly fell off the map the last few years), but this is an insanely crowded release date and similar to “Hanna,” I see this getting overshadowed as well. It actually makes me wonder why TriStar didn’t hold it for the summer, when audiences begin to get tired of things blowing up and decide to go after this type of movie.

Starring: Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman,
Zooey Deschanel, Justin Theroux, Toby Jones & Damian Lewis
Directed by David Gordon Green for distribution by Universal

The Plot: Two princes (McBride, Franco) with vastly different personalities must team up to rescue the older and more mature one’s girlfriend (Deschanel) after she’s kidnapped by an evil wizard (Theroux)

The Final Word: Franco has to be dreading doing press for this picture following the Oscars, but with Portman getting ready to give birth, it seems apparent the promotional burden will fall on him and McBride. Although remember that this won’t be the first time the pair has teamed up for a movie and that could end up being what really helps this comedy succeed. Fans of “Pineapple Express” probably already have the film’s release date circled on their calendars since this is targeted at the exact same audience.

Previewed next week: Rio & Scream 4