Saturday, May 28, 2011

New In Theaters - June 3rd, 2011

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Rose Byrne, January Jones,
Kevin Bacon, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence & Oliver Platt
Directed by Matthew Vaughn for distribution by 20th Century Fox

The Plot: The long-standing rift between Professor Charles “X” Xavier (McAvoy) and Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr (Fassbender) takes center stage in this prequel to the popular comic book trilogy.

The Final Word: The “X-Men” are some of the best known characters in the comic book universe. Created by the legendary Stan Lee, they’ve been at the top of their game for years, but the last few times they’ve entered theaters, it hasn’t been to the same pop they originally saw. Somewhere around “X-Men: The Final Stand” & “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” audiences became a little restless with the film series. Now FOX hopes that by going the prequel route, they can recapture that initial spark. With a strong cast made up of a number of top Hollywood rising stars, they have just as good of chance as they did when the first hit Cineplex’s in 2000.

Previewed next week: Super 8, Judy Bloom and the NOT Bummer Summer

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Flicks Flashback- Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp has long been one of Hollywood’s elite actors. His charm and versatility is unmatched by his peers, but believe it or not it was only in this last decade that his star truly began to rise to iconic levels. From an early start on TV’s “21 Jump Street,” to his breakthrough role in Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands,” Depp immediately amassed a following, but it was his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of Caribbean” that helped him set sail up the box office charts. With “On Stranger Tides” opening this weekend, it’s interesting to look back at how the “pirates” life has truly been good to the three time Oscar nominee.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2003)

Total USA Earnings: $305 million

The best way to describe Depp’s following prior to “Pirates” was cult. He had his fans and he had his image, but to that point he also only had one $100 million movie (“Sleepy Hollow”) to his name. Then came “Pirate of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” which opened to $46 million (his biggest career opening at the time). The movie took off and Disney all of a sudden had itself a new franchise to play with and a new star in its arsenal. Depp picked legions of new fans and racked in critical praise which eventually led to his earning his first “Best Actor” Academy Award nomination. In the end “Pirates” collected a haul of over $300 million domestically and over $650 million worldwide.

Finding Neverland (2004)

Total USA Earnings: $57 million

Following “Black Pearl,” Depp continued to find success with “Once Upon A Time In Mexico” and “Secret Window,” with both earning close to $100 million worldwide. Although the real reward came in 2004 when Oscar voters again honored him with a second consecutive Oscar nomination for his turn in “Finding Neverland,” which despite a soft domestic showing, managed to earn $118 million globally.  

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005)

Total USA Earnings: $206 million

With his international presence growing, Depp once again re-teamed with longtime friend and frequent collaborator Tim Burton for the re-imagined “Charlie & The Chocolate Factory.” The 2005 summer tentpole took in over $56 million its opening weekend on its way to a total cume of close to $500 million. It also turned out to be the first of four movies in a six year span that the pair would make together. Combined “The Corpse Bride,” “Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” & “Alice In Wonderland,” took in well over $1 billion and netted Depp yet another Oscar nomination.

The Tourist (2010)

Total USA Earnings: $67 million

All during his run with Burton, Depp continued churning out “Pirate” sequels that each became massive worldwide hits.  The actor was riding such a hot streak, that even his “misses” were turning into hits. Take for example, last year’s “The Tourist,” which stumbled out of the gate and went from an award contender to an award show running joke. Ironically, the last laugh was actually on Depp’s detractors as his international presence carried the movie through a rough domestic debut. In the USA, “Tourist” collected a modest $67 million; worldwide that number jumped to $278 million.

Rango (2011)

Total USA Earnings: $121 million

Although the most obvious sign that Depp’s star power was at stratospheric new levels came just this year with “Rango.” It wasn’t just that the animated movie about a day dreaming lizard opened to $38 million, but it’s that it did it without the benefit of any gimmicks. “Rango” wasn’t released in IMAX, it wasn’t released in 3D; it was simply a 2D standard cinema flick that worked! For a while, “Rango” was even the top grossing film of 2011, as it stands right now, it’s still in the top 5.

That brings us full circle to this weekend. Even if the latest “Pirates” doesn’t open as high as the previous ones, Depp’s presence alone makes it a solid investment. The only thing that a lower opening weekend tally would cause is a delay in the inevitable “Pirates 5,” which the actor himself has already said should occur to allow for a longer interval of time to pass between installments. That’s foresight that a lot of executives in Hollywood are lacking these days.

Combine all of these elements and it’s not hard to see why Depp is the star he is today; it’s just hard to fathom what took audiences so long to figure it out.

“Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is now in theaters. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New In Theaters - May 27th, 2011

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. Although many have stated that so far they feel that trailer is too similar to the original and that it is essentially the same movie just set in another country. Then again, people should remember that this is a summer popcorn movie and by definition summer popcorn movies aren’t really supposed to be taken that seriously; especially in the plot department. People will go to see this looking for an escape and whether the story is vastly different really is a moot point because regardless the audiences will still laugh.

Starring (voices): Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, 
Jackie Chan,Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, 
James Hong & Michelle Yeoh
Directed by Jennifer Yul Nelson for distribution by DreamWorks Animation

The Plot: Now fully apart of the Furious Five, Po (Black) finds his new way of life threatened by a new villain (Oldman) out to destroy the art of Kung Fu.

The Final Word: In 2008, Jack Black first lent his voice to the loveable Po in “Kung Fu Panda.” An uncoordinated but well-meaning Panda, Po soon found himself chosen as the Dragon Warrior, despite his lack of martial arts skills. The formula worked and gave DreamWorks the peace of mind knowing that they may have an heir apparent to “Shrek.”  Get used to Po, he’s going to be around awhile. 

Previewed next week: "X:Men: First Class"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New In Theaters - May 20st, 2011

Starring: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, 
Jennifer Lawrence & Cherry Jones
Directed by Jodie Foster for distribution by Summit Entertainment

The Plot: A former toy executive (Gibson) battles back from depression by using a beaver hand puppet to speak for him.

The Final Word: Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but he’s always been a talented actor and that’s exactly what the buzz is coming out of preview screenings of “The Beaver.”  Directed by his “Maverick” co-star and longtime friend Jodie Foster, this (dark) drama could actually resurrect the career of the troubled actor. Don’t forget if there is one thing Hollywood loves, it’s a comeback. Along with a strong ensemble cast which includes recent Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence, “The Beaver” could be a huge surprise when it rolls out nationwide this May following its limited engagement in a few select major markets.

Starring: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush
Kevin R. McNally, Astrid Berges-Frisbe & Sam Claflin
Directed by Rob Marshall for distribution by Walt Disney Pictures

The Plot: Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp) and his longtime nemesis Barbossa (Rush) end up in the middle of the hunt for the legendary Fountain of Youth along with the villainous Blackbeard (McShane) and a mysterious woman (Cruz) from Sparrow’s past.

The Final Word: Disney struck gold when they turned one of their signature theme park attractions into a big budget action franchise. Although loyal viewers will notice that this new film has a few slight differences, namely the absence of series regulars Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightly. In addition, longtime director Gore Verbinski is also sitting this one out, with Oscar winning director Rob Marshall taking over the helm. Not to take away from Bloom, Knightly or Verbinski, but the main thing that’s of great importance to fans is that Depp will once again reprise his Oscar nominated role of Captain Jack Sparrow, which should bring in a solid opening weekend for the action flick.

Previewed: The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New In Theaters - May 13th, 2011

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 (Rudolph) is getting married, a woman (Wiig) goes through the trials and tribulations of being her maid of honor.

The Final Word: This is Universal’s attempt at replicating the success of Warner Brothers’ “The Hangover,” but after its debut trailer was not well received, many began to question if that’s possible. Although it is hard to overlook that combined four of these women has been a part of three of the most successful comedy series of all time. Each has a strong following, which could pay dividends at the box office, especially for those looking for something other 3D action films (and their ridiculously high surcharges).

Starring: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Cam Gigandet, Maggie Q,
Lily Collins, Steven Moyer, Brad Dourif & Christopher Plummer
Directed by Scott Stewart for distribution by Screen Gems (Sony)

The Plot: A Warrior Priest (Bettany) defies the rules he’s sworn to live by following the abduction of his niece (Collins) by vampires. Aided by his niece’s boyfriend (Gigandet), a trigger happy sheriff and a onetime Warrior Princess (Q), Priest find himself in a race against time to save her from being “turned.”

The Final Word: Paul Bettany has jumped in and out of the Hollywood spotlight for years, although this may not have been the best choice for his latest return. “Priest” will be the second of (at least) four 3D movies being released this May and it may be by far the least high profile. Then again horror films have been doing remarkably well this year and with tacked 3D fees, it could surprise. Never count a movie during the summer season.

Previewed next week: The Beaver, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides