Somewhere between this year’s “Holiday Movie Preview” and next year’s “Winter & Spring Movie Preview,” moviegoers will know if the Mayans should have taken the Over on their bet that the world would stop spinning on Dec. 12, 2012.
Despite these foreboding times, however, audiences are still looking forward to what’s fast becoming the most anticipated film year in recent history. And why? Perhaps, the Mayan Calendar is just some clever H’wood marketing. Just consider their spin on 2012′s scheduling.
For example: The End of Days brings white-hot comic book flicks like The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Avengers. Armageddon brings the continuation of legendary series like the Alien forebear Prometheus, The Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, and the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall. The Apocalypse brings the return of blockbuster franchises a la Men in Black III, The Bourne Legacy, and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II. And lastly, Judgment Day brings the next chapters in the careers of auteurs like Wes Andersen (Moonrise Kingdom), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln), and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained).
The countdown clock starts now with the “Winter & Spring Movie Preview.” Though this time of year famously used to be H’wood’s dumping ground, more tentpole popcorn flicks and more critical darlings have been sneaking into the first few months of the year. John Carter, The Hunger Games, and 3-D re-releases of Disney and Star Wars hits are among this season’s exciting releases. And as for the Mayans? They’re just glad that Nostradamus had the Under.
Beauty and the Beast 3D (Jan. 13)
Voices of Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson
With the death of Ollie Johnston in April 2008, Walt Disney Studios marked the passing of an era. Johnston was the last of Disney’s Nine Old Men, a group of cartoonists who shaped the face of animation in H’wood, from 1937′s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through 1977′s The Rescuers. Though Pixar often overshadows its parent company nowadays (the Mouse House acquired the Toy Story and Finding Nemo production company in 2006), Disney animation saw a return to form last year with the blockbuster hit Tangled. Disney’s latest, however, is a re-release of one of their modern classics â¦ in three dimensions, no less. In this 3D-enhanced version of Beauty and the Beast, beautiful Belle (O’Hara) becomes imprisoned by a monstrous beast (Benson), only to discover that beneath his hideous exterior beats the heart of a prince. The Plus: The pedigree. This G-rated fan favorite, which was the crowning achievement in a particularly successful critical and commercial run by the Mouse House (The Little Mermaid and Aladdin bookended this release) was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture before there was such a category as Best Animated Feature. It went on to win Academy Awards for Best Score and Song. Not only will children want to see it, but their parents – who grew up with this flick since its initial release in 1991 – will want to see it again with kids in tow. The Minus: Very little. Not counting the zillions made from home video, this movie’s already made its money many times over (more than $145 million) and, aside from marketing costs and the 3D conversion, there is probably minimal expense involved with this re-release. Even with a limited time release, this family favorite should be as – if not more – successful than the recent Lion King 3D re-release.
The Other Line: “I hope they re-do the ending so that it’s more PETA-friendly.” – Dave DiRienzo, Rock 107 Morning Show co-host
The Other Line: “Everybody sing along now! Tale as old as time/Go for every dime/On your wallets they will feast/Beauty and the beast! Didn’t care then. Don’t care now. PASS!” – Mike Evans, electric city “Sights and Sounds” columnist
The Other Line: “Really, a 3D re-release of a CARTOON? I can’t wait for this 3D fad to die again. I know the glasses look more Matrix-y than the old ones from the 1950s but you still look like a dork and for what? So you can duck when some jackhole swings a sword. Count me out! – Prospector, Rock 107 Morning Show co-host
Contraband (Jan. 13)
Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale
OK, let’s get something out of the way. Yes, Mark Wahlberg began his career as Marky Mark, lead rapper of the Funky Bunch. But get over it. This gig led to roles in Basketball Diaries and Fear – turns that caught H’wood’s eye. With the critically lauded lead role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, however, he proved that his acting career was more than just a hat trick. Hit (The Perfect Storm) after hit (Italian Job) after hit (Invincible) followed. Then, Wahlberg’s Oscar nomination for 2006′s The Departed saw his star rise even more, which helped to get his passion project The Fighter (a true sports story set near his home town of South Boston) produced to great commercial and critical acclaim. In his latest, the R-rated actioner Contraband, an ex-smuggler (Wahlberg) is forced to sneak a container of counterfeit bills into the U.S. after his brother-in-law (Lukas Haas) runs afoul of some brutal drug lords and makes their family (Beckinsale, et al) the target of a treacherous criminal network. The Plus: The players. Add Three Kings, Four Brothers, and Shooter to Wahlberg’s list. Also, largely thanks to the Underworld franchise, Beckinsale is a big deal in her own right. Here, they have Haas (Inception), Ben Foster (The Mechanic), and Giovanni Ribisi (The Rum Diary) as back-up. The Minus: The odds. Wahlberg has certainly seen the other side of the pendulum before (The Truth About Charlie, The Happening, Max Payne).
The Other Line: “They finally made a movie of the Nintendo game from the 80s? I wonder how they’ll manage to work the Konami Code into the plot so that I get to hear Marky Mark explain what ‘Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, B, A’ means.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “WOW! This reminds me of … 437 other second-rate action flicks I’ve already seen. PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “Marky Mark plays an ex-bad guy who has transformed into a family man and, drum roll please, his past comes back to haunt him. Full of one-liners like “I’m coming for you” and “where’s my wife,” I’ll wait a month and catch this one on STARZ.” – Tom Graham, electric city staff writer
The Other Line: “I love Mark Wahlberg, but I feel like I’ve seen this gritty kinda antihero flick too many times. I kinda miss Boogie Nights Marky Mark and his prosthetic Schlong!” – Prospector
The Other Line: “I used to dismiss movies with Wahlberg as a lead. Then I saw The Fighter, which was great. But then again, Christian Bale stole the show in that movie. Yeah, on second thought, I’ll pass.” – Randy Shemanski, assistant sports information director, University of Scranton; former editor, electric city
Haywire (Jan. 20)
Gina Carano, Michael Douglas
Ever since director Steven Soderbergh broke onto the H’wood scene with the 1989 indie classic Sex, Lies, and Videotape, he has consistently teeter-tottered between experimental personal films (Schizopolis, The Girlfriend Experience) and popcorn entertainment (Out of Sight, Oceans Eleven). Sometimes, audiences, critics, and Oscar voters alike have fallen into perfect cadence (Erin Brockovich, Traffic) â¦ and other times, not so much (Solaris, The Good German). In the fall, his star-studded disaster film Contagion enjoyed the former scenario, which bodes well for the director’s follow-up. In this R-rated spy thriller, a highly trained black ops contract agent (Carano) gets double crossed and left for dead by someone in her agency, leading her to try turning the tables on her dangerous employers (Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender). The Plus: The players. Soderbergh is already an Oscar-winner thanks to another ensemble drama (Traffic). Here, he directs martial arts star Carano in her film debut along with stars like Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), Banderas (Puss in Boots), McGregor (The Ghost Writer), Tatum (G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra), and Fassbender (X-Men: First Class). The Minus: The gamble. Soderbergh isn’t necessarily undefeated at the box office. Even with marquee stars like George Clooney and Matt Damon, The Good German and The Informant! respectively split audiences and critics down the middle.
The Other Line: “Finally, we get to know what happens when they make The Bourne Identity with a female lead!” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Not my type of movie. But then again … Soderbergh … okay, you got me.” – Evans
The Other Line: “Michael Douglas hasn’t made a good movie since Falling Down (yeah, I said it) and I haven’t seen a GREAT spy thriller since The French Connection!” – Prospector
The Other Line: “A woman is going to kick the asses of multiple men in an effort to gain revenge? Shouldn’t this star Angelina Jolie?” – Shemanski
Underworld Awakening (Jan. 20)
Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea
After two successful Underworld go-rounds, director Len Wiseman and his wife, star Kate Beckinsale, decided that enough was bloody enough. For the third go-round, Rise of the Lycans, series holdovers Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End) and Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) were left to guide newbie Rhona Mitra (Doomsday) through the paces (Wiseman stayed on as producer while Beckinsale was only seen in bookend footage left over from the first two films). Now, however, Beckinsale is set to don latex and fangs again for Awakening (read: ca-ching). In this as-yet-unrated third sequel in fantasy thriller series, vampire warrioress Selene (Beckinsale) escapes from a cryogenic prison into a world where humans are hunting bloodsuckers and werewolves to extinction. The Plus: The franchise. The first entry grossed more than $51 million in the U.S. alone. The second entry, Evolution, bested it by another $10 million.
Though Lycans did slightly less at the box office, Awakening should see some decent returns thanks to the returning star power of Beckinsale and its original director. The Minus: The odds. It’s been five years since Beckinsale sank her teeth into this franchise. This tired series may well have run out of steam at the multiplex.
The Other Line: “Fulfilling Hollywood’s legal obligation to release a movie about werewolves and/or vampires quarterly. At least there’s Kate Beckinsale.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Remember the good old days when vampires were creepy? Now they’re either action stars or heartthrobs. Sorry, they’re not supposed to fight and they sure as hell don’t sparkle! PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “Remember when Kate Beckinsale said she was done with this franchise? Yeah, me too. But a paycheck is a paycheck and at least the vampires in this series don’t sparkle in sunlight. Can’t wait to catch this on TBS in four months.” – Sam Falbo, Scranton Public Theatre
The Other Line: “Enough with Bloodsucking Vampires and Werewolves. No Really – ENOUGH!!!!” – Prospector
The Other Line: “Vampires and werewolves have become so clichÃ©. Time for something new, please.” – Shemanski
One for the Money (Jan. 27)
Katherine Heigl, Jason O’Mara
Thanks to the box office success of rom-coms like Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, and Life As We Know It, Katherine Heigl suddenly found herself a hotter commodity in H’wood. Schedule-wise, this scenario works out great for the actress considering that she asked to be written out of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy two seasons ago (series creator Shonda Rhimes and ABC obliged). In her latest, this PG-13-rated adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s novel, a down-on-her-luck Jersey girl named Stephanie Plum (Heigl) convinces her sleazy bail bondsman cousin to give her a job as a bounty hunter, which leads her into an investigation involving a vice cop wanted for murder (O’Hara) – the same man who broke her hearts years before. The Plus: The players. Heigl aside, Evanovich is also a big player here. The bestselling author has given readers 18 Stephanie Plum novels thus far. O’Mara (Fox’s Terra Nova) John Leguizamo (The Lincoln Lawyer), Sherri Shepherd (ABC’s The View), and Debbie Reynolds (Mother) also star. The Minus: The odds. Heigl has certainly let down moviegoers at the box office before (Killers).
The Other Line: “I can’t wait for the sequel, so we get to see a movie called Two For The Show and it’s all about Katherine Heigl’s breasts.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “What the hell is this? Rom-com? Action flick? Oh wait – Kathryn Heigl’s in it. I know what it is – SH*T! PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “Heigl makes 13 different faces and talks with a Joisey accent while taking a position at a bail bonding company. I’m guessing there is going to be sexual tension and a moment where she proves to everyone that a girl from Jersey can succeed at meeting job requirements.
Although they warn of partial nudity, I have a feeling it’s going to be an old man’s butt. I’m skipping this one.” – Graham
The Other Line: “I’m still bumming that Katherine Heigl kept her bra on in the sex scenes from Knocked Up. Sorry, WHO DOES THAT? Since this is PG-13, I have no shot at redemption so I will skip it.” – Prospector
The Other Line: “I’m going to make a prediction: This movie is rated no better than 95 percent rotten on rottentomatoes.com.” – Shemanski
Woman in Black (Feb. 3)
Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds
When the final Harry Potter novel hit bookstores in July, 2007, Muggles half-heartedly prepared themselves for the closing chapter in J.K. Rowling’s magically successful young wizard series.
In terms of movies, however, Warner Bros. decided to split this seventh Potter outing, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, into two separate movies. The gamble paid off. Critics and moviegoers felt that the series went out on a high (and the WB has the box office to back this up). But what becomes of its stars now that Potter has taken his final bow? Not wanting to be pigeonholed, Potter star Daniel Radcliffe has taken to Broadway in Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Now comes his first non-Potter starring role in film, Woman in Black. In this PG-13-rated horror tale adapted from Susan Hill’s novel, a young lawyer (Radcliffe) travels with his young children to a remote village where the ghost of a scorned woman is said to terrorize the locals. The Plus: The material. First staged in 1989, Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation of Hill’s novel is the second longest running play in the history of London’s West End. Though the Radcliffe property isn’t based on this play, the material sure speaks to horror fans. The Minus: The gamble. Potter star Rupert Grint barely made a blip on the radar with his forays outside of the boy wizard franchise (Driving Lessons, Cherry Bomb).
The Other Line: “Daniel ‘Please Don’t Call Me Harry’ Radcliffe makes a non-Potter movie and it’s about…a ghost who haunts the locals? Is it Moaning Myrtle? The only way I’d see this movie is if I were under a Confundus charm. (I’m a Potter nerd. So what? Shut up.)” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “I see the trailers and all I think of is ‘classic Hammer Film.’ We haven’t had a good gothic horror film in a while. I’m there. I just hope I don’t have to deal with a bunch of cell-phone weilding Harry Potter twits. Maybe I’ll go on a school day.” – Evans
The Other Line: “Harry Potter in a haunted house with ghosts, screams, words written in blood and mysterious curses? I’m there.” – Graham
The Other Line: “Face it, Radcliffe will never be anyone other than Harry Potter. Harry Potter could never be a lawyer, hence this movie could never be believable.” – Shemanski
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 3D (Feb. 10)
Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor
It has been seven years since George Lucas last sat in the director’s seat for the final Star Wars installment to be released, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. This is no big deal though. Prior to rolling camera on Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999, it had been 22 years. In fact, Lucas has only directed six movies in his stored career: THX 1138, American Graffiti, Episode IV – The New Hope, and Episode II – Attack of the Clones round out the list. With these six movies, however, he’s made quite an impression. In this, the first of six 3D-enchanced re-releases of his PG-rated sci-fi adventure series, two Jedi knights (Neeson, McGregor) get tasked with protecting a young slave boy (Jake Lloyd) who may bring balance to a galactic government verging on collapse. Episodes II through VI will follow. The Plus: The brand. No matter how many times this franchise is re-released or re-packaged for home video, moviegoers show up in droves. The Minus: The backlash. This set of prequels to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi (Episodes IV, V, and VI is you’re keeping score) were never as critically hailed as their forebears and post-production 3D conversions haven’t always wowed audiences (Exhibit A: Clash of the Titans).
The Other Line: “If George Lucas was smart, instead of editing cooler explosions and doing 3D, he’d just edit out Jar Jar Binks completely and CGI the actors who played Anakin Skywalker so that they’re good actors.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “When we saw the trailer for this one, I turned to my son and said, ‘No way! Lucas ain’t suckering me into seeing these six movies again!’ To which my son replied, ‘Bullsh*t, Dad. You’re already in line.’ Sadly, he’s absolutely correct.” – Evans
The Other Line: “Great, George Lucas gets to take a 3-D dump all over my childhood again. I’d rather watch the Star Wars Holiday Special on a loop for 48 hours.” – Falbo
The Other Line: “Yes. As a passionate Star Wars nerd, it is required that I go see it. I can’t wait to see little how Anakin, Jar Jar and truly horrendous acting look in 3D.” – Graham
The Other Line: “I think I’ve made my feelings on 3D perfectly clear. If you ask me they should make a NO D Version of this flick and erase it from having ever been made!” – Prospector
The Other Line: “Ugh, they’re really going to put the original Star Wars trilogy in 3D? I might be sick to my stomach.” – Shemanski
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Feb. 17)
Nicolas Cage, Violante Placido
Whether you love or hate his career choices, Nicolas Cage has cut quite a swath through H’wood. From his days as a supporting player in cousin Francis Ford Coppola’s films (The Cotton Club, Peggy Sue Got Married) to his Oscar triumph (Leaving Las Vegas) to his time as a bona fide superhero (Ghost Rider), Cage has pretty much run the gamut from class to crass. When it was announced that the IRS was seeking millions of dollars in back taxes from the actor, however, this critic wondered if the quality of his moves would go south in lieu of a large paycheck. Then, the actor garnered some of the best reviews of his career for Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Kick-Ass â¦ right before turning out the horrific duds Season of the Witch and Drive Angry. Now comes his latest, Spirit of Vengeance. In this PG-13-rated fantasy adventure sequel from directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank), a former stunt driver and bounty hunter of demons (Cage) leaves a self-imposed exile to protect a mother (Placido) and son from a man who may actually be the devil (Ciaran Hinds). The Plus: The players. His IRS troubles aside, Cage still ranks as one of H’wood’s highest paid actors according to Forbes Magazine. Here, he is joined by Placido (The American), Hinds (The Debt), and Idris Elba (Thor). The Minus: The odds. Marvel Studios has some hot highly anticipated properties coming this year (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers) â¦ but this isn’t one of them. Plus, Cage has turned in dud (Next) after dud (Bangkok Dangerous) over the last few years, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced The Sorcerer’s Apprentice included.
The Other Line: “Nicolas Cage = AVOID THIS MOVIE.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Saw the trailer and I couldn’t stop laughing. I just couldn’t get Andy Samberg’s Nicolas Cage impersonation from SNL out of my head. PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “Is this the one where he has a flaming skull head? I haven’t been interested in a Nicolas Cage movie since Peggy Sue Got Married and that was only because I am a big Buddy Holly Fan.” – Prospector
The Other Line: “Yes! More of Nicolas Cage acting confused and bewildered, yet somehow saving the day! I love a good fantasy story!” – Shemanski
This Means War (Feb. 17)
Chris Pine, Tom Hardy
Spy capers are big business in post-9/11 H’wood. From the reinvention of James Bond in Casino Royale (and its follow-up Quantum of Solace, the highest grossing Bond movie of all time) to the back (Identity) to back (Supremacy) to back (Ultimatum) success of the Bourne series, it has never been more profitable for spies to come in from out of the cold. Salt and Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol, for instance, were two of the most successful releases of the last few years. In this PG-13-rated spy thriller-comedy, two of the world’s deadliest CIA operatives (Pine, Hardy) enjoy a close friendship until their love of the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) forces them to pull out all of the arsenal stops to defeat the other. The Plus: The players. Here, McG (Charlie’s Angels, Terminator Salvation) is directing Pine (Star Trek, Unstoppable), Hardy (Inception, Warrior), and Witherspoon (Four Christmases, Water for Elephants). The Minus: The price-tag. This Means War is budgeted at $70 million â¦ and is being released in February, not the summer. Granted, it’s Valentine’s Day weekend, but popcorn blockbusters of this magnitude are best left to the dog days.
The Other Line: “I liked this movie better the first time I saw it when it was called Grumpy Old Men.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Directed by McG! This is gonna be freakin’ awe…PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “How many times do I have to see the phrase ‘SPY THRILLER’ in this preview? I wanna puke in my soup. Wanna see a great thriller? Watch Gene Hackman in The Conversation.” – Prospector
The Other Line: “WARNING! WARNING! This is a chick flick disguised as a man’s movie! Don’t do it fellas! DON’T DO IT!” – Shemanski
Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax (March 2)
Voices of Zac Efron, Taylor Swift
In regards to his books, Theodor Geisel has long been a hot commodity. In terms of movies, however, things really kicked off for this famed writer over the last decade. Of course, it helps that his pseudonym is ‘Dr. Seuss.’ In 2000, Jim Carrey and director Ron Howard helped to make the live action The Grinch Who Stole Christmas a hit. Though not nearly as successful, Mike Meyers and director Bo Welch continued the Seuss-to-screen run with The Cat and the Hat. Then, in 2008, Ice Age producer Chris Meledandri birthed a box office smash with the animated Horton Hears a Who. Now comes The Lorax from Illumination, the team that brought moviegoers Despicable Me. In this PG-rated adaptation of the classic Dr. Seuss book, a boy (Efron) journeys to find a tree for the girl he desires (Swift) only to encounter a grumpy yet charming creature (Danny DeVito) standing in his way. Ed Helms and Betty White also provide voices. The Plus: The players. Like a lot of modern ‘toons, The Lorax has stacked the deck with celebrity pipes. Chris Renaud is directing Efron (New Year’s Eve), Swift (Valentine’s Day), DeVito (FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Ed Helms (The Hangover Part II), Betty White (The Proposal), and Rob Riggle (Going the Distance). The Minus: The odds. The Grinch and Horton Hears a Who are well known Dr. Seuss books. Even with the star wattage, will The Lorax have the same draw?
The Other Line: “Sounds like a whole lot of Smogulous Smoke to me.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “My kids are beyond the age when they’re dragging me to animated features. So unless it’s from Pixar, they usually don’t even make a blip on my radar. PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “Any Dr. Seuss project has potential but Zac Efron, are you really hoping to get a bunch of moist ‘tweens into the seats just to hear his voice? Good Luck!” – Prospector
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (March 2)
Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton
In a city full of dreamers, it only makes sense that fairy tales should be one of the hottest commodities, however fractured. Blame director Terry Gilliam. Ever since his The Brothers Grimm bowed in 2005, H’wood has been taking a lot of pages from, well, Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Earlier last year, Catherine Hardwicke directed Amanda Seyfried in a Gothic re-imagining of Red Riding Hood. Then, Julia Leigh directed Emily Browning in a very adult re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. This year, there will be two takes on Snow White. In this as-yet-unrated adventure comedy, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Renner, Arterton) take vengeance on the witch who tried to cook and eat them in a gingerbread house 15 years after the incident. The Plus: The players. Renner is burning hot after starring in back (The Hurt Locker) to back (The Town) to back (Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol) smash hits. After warm (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) and warmer (The Clash of the Titans) turns, Arterton is also due a hot streak. The Minus: The odds. Red Riding Hood scared up nearly $90 million at the same time last year, but this sub-genre has suddenly flooded the box office. Will John Q. Moviegoer sustain enough interest for Witch Hunters?
The Other Line: “I didn’t care until I found out this was directed by the same guy who made Dead Snow. That was the gory flick about Nazi zombies – Nazi zombies! Now you won’t be able to keep me away from the theater!!!” – Evans
The Other Line: “It sounds so stupid and looks so bad ass. I loved the story growing up and I will definitely be buying a ticket for this movie.” – Graham
The Other Line: “I like the premise but I feel like this needs Danny McBride!” – Prospector
John Carter (March 9)
Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins
Sure, big-time H’wood live action directors have tried their hand at cartoons before (Robert Zemekis: Beowulf; Steven Spielberg: The Adventures of Tin Tin), but why not vice-versa?
Actually, Shrek director Andrew Adamson broke down this wall by directing the successful The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) recently broke out on his own with the blockbuster smash Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol. Now, director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL*E) gives it a go with John Carter, which is produced by Pixar and Disney Animation head John Lasseter. In this as-yet-unrated sci-fi adventure based on the books by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, a war-weary Civil War veteran (Kitsch) gets inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes a warrior caught in an epic conflict between the warring inhabitants. The Plus: The players. Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, NBC’s Friday Night Lights) and Collins (The Number 23, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) are joined by Thomas Hayden Church (Spider-Man 3, We Bought a Zoo), Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Daybreakers), Mark Strong (Kick-Ass, Sherlock Holmes), and James Purefoy (Resident Evil, Ironclad). The Minus: The competition. This year is shaping up to be a corker and this expensive popcorn flick doesn’t come from a comic book or as part of a franchise.
The Other Line: “Sorry, every time I see the trailer, I want to see this movie less and less. PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “I always found the John Carter from Mars character interesting, but I’m not really impressed with the trailers for this film. It comes across as trying to be a little too Lucas/Cameron-esque. I’m going to pass.” – Graham
Mirror Mirror (March 16)
Julia Roberts, Lily Collins
In a city full of dreamers, it only makes sense that fairy tales should be one of the hottest commodities, however … wait a minute, didn’t we just go down this road of H’wood’s obsession with fairy tales in the Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters preview? Well, this is the first of two takes on the Snow White legend this year. On June 1, Snow Warrioress Kristen Stewart will battle Evil Witch Charlize Theron in Snow White & the Huntsmen. First comes Mirror Mirror, however. In this PG-13-rated live action re-imagining by director Tarsem Singh (The Immortals), a beauty (Collins) wins the heart of a handsome prince (Arnie Hammer) only to be banished away from her realm by a wicked witch (Roberts). The Plus: The players. With turns in The Blind Side and Abduction, Collins has made a name for herself as an ingÃ©nue on-the-rise. Hammer (The Social Network, J. Edgar), Nathan Lane (The Birdhouse, Swing Vote), and Sean Bean (The Hitcher, HBO’s Game of Thrones) will surely aid her cause. For pure marketability, however, few names beat out Roberts (Valentine’s Day, Eat Pray Love). The Minus: The odds. Red Riding Hood scared up nearly $90 million at the same time last year, but this sub-genre has suddenly flooded the box office. Will John Q. Moviegoer sustain enough interest for Mirror Mirror with the edgier and sexier Huntsmen breathing down its neck?
The Other Line: “Julia Roberts’ mouth passes the torch of oddly attractive facial features to Lily Collins’ eyebrows.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Everybody sing along now…Hi-ho Hi-ho/This film will surely blow. PASS!” – Evans
The Other Line: “Two ‘Snow White’ movies? Is the story that much of a hot property? Charlize Theron wins for me, hands down. I love when people ‘re-imagine’ things too. Sounds so much better than saying ‘destroy on the hope of commercial success’”. – Falbo
The Other Line: “Oh, hi there Snow White. I forgot what your story was about, so please release a movie every year to refresh my memory. Now I remember. There should be a movie about people switching bodies for a couple of days. That would be really zany.” – Graham
The Other Line: “Sorry, Julia Roberts as a beautiful girl who admires herself in the mirror, I don’t Think … What, she plays the Witch? Oh Yeah I can see that!” – Prospector
21 Jump Street (March 16)
Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum
Never mind Team Edward or Team Jacob. This reviewer’s siding with Team Apatow. Funnyman Judd Apatow, after all, is a veritable hit machine. Freaks and Geeks? As executive producer of the NBC ’80s high school dramedy Freaks and Geeks, he helped launch the careers of Linda Cardellini (Scooby Doo, NBC’s ER), Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, CBS’s How I Met Your Mother) and James Franco (127 Hours, Rise of the Planet of the Apes). As writer and director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, he helped to put Seth Rogen (The Green Hornet, 50/50) on the map. As producer of Superbad, he introduced moviegoers to straight man Michael Cera and funnyman Jonah Hill, the star of this comedy. In this as-yet-unrated comedy adventure remake of the Fox TV series, two high school rivals (Tatum, Hill) put aside their differences when they reunite at the police academy and are placed in a program that places undercover cops in high schools to root out drug dealing. The Plus: The players. Hill made audiences laugh in Funny People and Get Him to the Greek (both Apatow projects if you’re keeping score. Here, he stars with Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Dilemma). If the critics buy the action and comedy, he should see some good returns down on Jump Street. The Minus: The odds. The Sitter, Hill’s first headlining gig, didn’t exactly wow audiences or critics.
The Other Line: “First Starsky and Hutch, now 21 Jump Street. For all our sakes, I hope the Mayans were right so we don’t have to watch these remakes anymore.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Never saw the TV show and this movie doesn’t look half bad. But can someone please explain something to me. Why do I HATE CHANNING TATUM? This guy really bugs me. I don’t know why.” – Evans
The Other Line: “A really skinny Jonah Hill and that dude who was in the crappy GI Joe movie are running around high school halls, thus putting an unnecessary spin on a T.V. classic. Richard Greco’s career must be spinning in its grave.” – Graham
The Other Line: “Remember when 21 Jump Street was a cool TV show? Yeah Neither do I. OK that’s a lie. I do remember that, but the real question is will any of the younger movie goers remember that? Doubt It!” – Prospector
The Other Line: “This would probably be better if it wasn’t a comedy. But whenever Jonah Hill is in a movie about high school kids, it’s usually pretty darn funny.” – Shemanski
The Hunger Games (March 23)
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson
Between books, movies, theme parks, and merchandising, The Times of London estimates that author J.K. Rowlings’s Harry Potter brand is worth in excess of $15 billion. Naturally, H’wood would want to find a Young Adult book series follow-up that saw nearly this much ca-ching.
A few have triumphed (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Twilight Saga). Some have merely impressed (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief). Many have outright failed (The Golden Compass, The Spiderwick Chronicles, The City of Ember). The Hunger Games, however, is generating a lot of buzz in the industry. In this PG-13-rated adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s bestselling novel, young Katniss Evergreen (Lawrence) takes her sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a fight-to-the-death between children living in the ruins of North America. The Plus: The players. Because of her books’ success, Collins was named one of Time’s “Most Influential People for 2010.” For the movie version, Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) is directing Lawrence (X-Men: First Class), Hutcherson (The Kids Are All Right), Liam Hemsworth (The Last Song), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland), Elizabeth Banks (The Next Three Days), Lenny Kravitz (Precious), Wes Bentley (Ghost Rider), and Donald Sutherland (The Mechanic). The Minus: The expectation. The novels proved pretty gritty and violent, which makes a PG-13- rated adaptation kinda sorta eyebrow-raising. Sure, this book series might have a Potter or Twilight fanbase, which will make for a great opening weekend. If the critics end up savaging the movie, however, moviegoers unfamiliar with the books might just sit this one out.
The Other Line: “This is a biopic about Gandhi, right? No? Oh well, I guess I’ll see it anyway.” – DiRienzo
The Other Line: “Lots of buzz surrounding this one. It’ll only be good if they go all the way with it. Water it down to a PG-13? I’ll pass.” – Evans
The Other Line: “The Hunger Games will be revenge on all the vampires that Twilight turned into pussies.” – Greg Korin, actor
The Other Line: “This is the ONLY movie on this list I care to see. The book was tremendous and I watch the trailer at least once a week because it looks so good. Can’t wait for this.” – Shemanski
Please, also keep those peepers peeled for the following: producer George Lucas presents Red Tails, a PG-13-rated true tale of African-American flyers (Anthony Hemingway, Rick Otto, Tristan Wilds, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding, Jr.) fighting the Axis and racism in World War II (1/20); an ex-cop-turned-wanted fugitive (Sam Worthington) takes refuge on a high-rise ledge to plead his case to a hard-living and sympathetic police negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) in the PG-13-rated adventure thriller Man on a Ledge (1/27); the Rock takes over for Brendan Frazer in the PG- rated 3D Journey to the Center of the Earth sequel, The Mysterious Island (2/10); a rookie CIA operative (Ryan Reynolds) running a Cape Town, South Africa holding cell housing a renegade intelligence officer (Denzel Washington) finds himself in a deadly spy game when dangerous mercenaries come a-knocking In this PG-13-rated actioner Safe House (2/10); a husband (Channing Tatum) begins a difficult courtship with his wife (Rachel McAdams) after she loses any memory of their relationship in a car crash in the PG-13-rated drama The Vow (2/10); writer Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) joins forces with a young Baltimore detective (Oliver Jackson Cohen) to hunt down a mad serial murderer who’s basing his crimes around Poe’s works as-yet-unrated 19th century-set crime thriller The Raven (3/9); in Wrath of the Titans, an as-yet-unrated 3D sequel, Perseus (Sam Worthington) travels to the underworld to rescue Zeus (Liam Neeson) and rescue mankind after the god is enslaved by the villainous and godly titans (3/30).