In this ninth volume I look at films that include the final chapter in the "Twilight" saga, a sequel to surprise action hit "Taken", yet another reboot of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise, an update of the British cult cop show classic "The Sweeney", and 3D re-releases of the first "Star Wars" prequel and the previous record holder of the biggest film of all time.
There's also a fourth "Step Up" film, a non-Martian remake of "Total Recall", another Adult Swim show hitting the big screen, another Tyler Perry movie, the return of Kate Beckinsale in a catsuit, a contemporary set "Three Stooges" movie, and a new Judd Apatow-directed comedy.
Opens: August 10th 2012
Cast: Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Whitney Houston, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo
Director: Salim Akil
Analysis: Inspired by The Supremes and a remake of the 1976 film of the same name, the original "Sparkle" dealt with three teenage sisters and local church choir members in late 1950s Harlem who formed a girl group. Along the way fame unravels their personal lives.
For this remake, the action is being moved to Detriot in 1968 to make full use of the Motown-era setting. The big draw here that has everyone talking is the return of Whitney Houston in her first acting role since 1996's "The Preacher's Wife". In fact Houston has been trying to get the project going since the mid-90's and at one time convinced Aaliyah to star before her untimely death.
It wasn't until last year when Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, the duo behind "Jumping the Broom" and the TV series "The Game", came aboard that things quickly got moving on the $17 million feature. Shot in just a month, the whole film essentially sounds like a less interesting and cheaper "Dreamgirls", one that swaps the Broadway belters for more Motown inspired numbers.
Houston's voice is understandably not what it used to be (sniff sniff), so the warblings will be left up to Grammy-nominated singer and American Idol-winner Jordin Sparks making her debut as an actress here. She's being helped by R&B artist R. Kelly who is writing a few original songs to supplement Curtis Mayfield's original score.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 3D
Opens: February 10th 2012
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Pernilla August
Director: George Lucas
Analysis: What is there to say that hasn't already been said?
One of the more amusing e-mail exchanges I've had in the fifteen years of running this site was with a massive "Star Wars" fan a few weeks after Episode I hit theatres. I was caught up in the hype with everyone else about seeing it so the disappointment on first viewing I put down to my expectations being too high.
By the end of the second viewing and throughout the third I knew - it stunk. Unlike pretty much everyone else who works in online entertainment reporting, I enjoyed but was never a particularly big 'Wars' fan. Not sure why that is, something about George Lucas' universe of telekinetic muppets, pseudo-religious dogma and dirty spaceships never really gelled with me.
So while it was a dud, it wasn't the over exaggerated childhood rape metaphor in my eyes that it was to others. At the time of the e-mail, 'Wars' fandom had begun to wake-up to the smell and this guy got into an argument with me that a third viewing wasn't enough to fairly judge - it was my duty to see it a fourth or fifth time because only then would I really enjoy it.
Over a decade on, Lucas is set to score some pocket money with a 3D converted re-release of the series. Despite the widespread backlash to the 3D craze, even the most jaded expressed an interest in seeing 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'A New Hope' on the big screen in 3D. Then came word that Lucas would begin said annual re-releases chronologically in terms of onscreen events - i.e. the prequels first.
As a result there's no guarantee the original trilogy will even get a re-release and those involved have stated if any of the three prequels don't do well enough in their 3D re-releases they won't bother continuing with them. Will that matter to the faithful? No. Those who've already decided to see this have undoubtedly already made plans or will feign anger at Lucas but ultimately go anyway. It'll likely make him a bit of money too - and you wonder why capitalism is going down the toilet.
Step Up 4ever
Opens: August 10th 2012
Cast: Kathryn McCormick, Ryan Guzman, Stephen "tWitch" Boss
Director: Jon Chu
Analysis: We've somehow arrived at the fourth entry in the inexplicably still popular "Step Up" franchise. Shot for tight sub-$30 million budgets, the two previous sequels both scored more than $150 million in box-office worldwide each. In fact, in a rare move for franchises, reviews for each subsequent entry have been better than the last with "Step Up 3D" scoring mixed reviews as opposed to the generally negative reception to the first two films.
While the story will no doubt remain threadbare and the acting ability of the cast fairly wooden, the draw here is the dance sequences and how elaborately staged they can get (Travis Wall is handling the choreography in this outing). Jon Chu, who has been onboard since the first sequel, returns again to direct.
"So You Think You Can Dance" dancer Kathryn McCormick and Emporio Armani model Ryan Guzman have the lead roles and so far these been a few publicity stills of the pair together in steamy embraces - often with soaked clothing. Expect personal crises and character rivalries to be settled with some good ol' fashioned cartwheels and sexually suggestive pelvis grinding.
Cast: Matthew Goode, Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver
Director: Park Chan-wook
Analysis: Korean director Park Chan-wook, who exploded onto the international stage in 2003 with the unforgettable "Oldboy", delivers his first English language film here - a psychological thriller from a script by "Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller which Tony & Ridley Scott are producing.
Mia Wasikowska plays a young woman whose father dies in an auto accident. Soon an uncle (Matthew Goode) whom she never knew existed comes to live with her and her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman). She begins to suspect this mysterious and charming man has ulterior motives, yet that only leads to an increasing infatuation with him.
There's a pretty strong cast here including Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver and Lucas Till in supporting roles. It's Miller's script though that got this project a lot of attention two years ago, especially as it was being pitched under the pseudonym Ted Foulke and no-one at the time would confirm Miller was Foulke.
Miller also penned a prequel script called "Under Charlie" which will likely be considered for production should this one prove a success. The title refers to Bram Stoker as Miller says a lot of elements of the Dracula mythology are woven into the story though there isn't a vampire in sight.
Cast: Anna Paquin , Ryan Phillippe, Luke Wilson, Powers Boothe, Riley Thomas Stewart
Director: James Cox
Analysis: This $2 million indie drama shot in Louisiana sounds decidedly unremarkable on the surface. Phillippe plays a perpetually recovering drug addict haunted by the ghost of his dead mother who returns to the family he abandoned. There he confronts his older brother (Wilson) and faces his sister-in-law (Paquin) who is still pining for him ever since they were a couple.
No doubt love triangle hijinks ensue along with some sweaty sex, pot talk and easily wrapped up moral lessons. "Wonderland" helmer James Cox directs from a script by Dave Cole with the tone said to be more funny than heartbreaking. Hopefully Paquin will have more luck with this than with "Margaret" which finally saw release at Christmas after sitting on a shelf for years.
Cast: John C. Hawkes, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Moon Bloodgood
Director: Ben Lewin
Analysis: Having premiered at Sundance this week with the worldwide rights quickly acquired by awards-garnering powerhouse Fox Searchlight for a whopping $6 million, this comedy/drama is expected to be a powerhouse in the Fall and already a likely lock for John Hawkes ("Winter's Bone," "Deadwood") to score a Best Actor Oscar nomination next year.
Hawkes plays a 38-year-old poet crippled by polio and confined to an iron lung who decides, with the counsel of a priest (William H. Macy), to lose his virginity to a professional sexual surrogate (Helen Hunt). "Georgia" and "Lucky Break" director Ben Lewin wrote and directs the tale based on the true story of the late Mark O'Brien.
Reviews say Hawkes delivers a career best performance, an impressive call considering his acclaimed track record and the fact he's heavily physically restrained throughout the film. Throw in Macy with some light humour and Moon Bloodgood as a resolute but grounded nurse and you've got a solid ensemble.
The subject matter will raise some eyebrows as its quite sexually frank with what are said to be moving love scenes between Hunt and the partly paralysed Hawkes - not the first time for Hunt who did the similar scenes with Eric Stoltz back in "The Waterdance". Yet it doesn't go too far into the exploitative which may save it from an NC-17 unlike the MPAA's over reaction to "Shame".
Cast: Ray Winstone, Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell, Ben Drew, Steven Mackintosh
Director: Nick Love
Analysis: One of the great series of the past decade was "Life on Mars", a 70's cop show with the high concept of a 21st century Manchester cop being thrown back to that more primitive and politically incorrect time in policing. That show, and some of Guy Ritchie's stylistic flourishes, likely wouldn't have existed without "The Sweeney". It was the original 70's British TV police drama and followed the Flying Squad - a branch of the Metropolitan Police specialising in tackling armed robbery and violent crime in London.
These cops were not just tough but super violent on crims, informants and suspects, as well as being perennial skirt chasers - think slightly hornier British equivalents of Gene Hackman's "The French Connection" character. It also helped that they were played by two British actors who went on to stardom later with their own shows - the late John Thaw in "Inspector Morse" and Dennis Waterman in "Minder".
Talk began for a film reboot of the property back in 2008. British filmmaker Nick Love, who explored vigilantism, crime and football hooliganism in films like "The Football Factory" and "The Business", teamed with original show creator Ian Kennedy Martin to pen and do the $16 million project which was to hit in 2009 with Ray Winstone set as George Carter while various actors like Ewan McGregor, Daniel Craig and Tom Hardy were linked as Jack Regan.
Fox Searchlight however withdrew support a few weeks before filming was due to start, a move that put the entire film on hold until things picked up again last year with a smaller budget and rapper Ben 'Plan B' Drew as Regan. Love has confirmed that this will move the action to the present day as the aim is to reinvent the property for a young audience who has never really heard of the original.
There's some solid supporting talent including "Homeland" star Damian Lewis, "Captain America" leading lady Hayley Atwell and "Top Gear" host Jeremy Clarkson all appearing. Those involved seem to be quietly confident about this with already talk of either a prequel or a sequel with a more international flavour. Whether a new audience will click with this though, we'll have to wait and see when it opens in the UK this Fall.
Cast: Amber Heard, Shiloh Fernandez, Kellan Lutz, Brittany Snow, Kirstie Alley
Director: Aram Rappaport
Analysis: An adaptation of Australian author Max Barry's highly satirical first novel "Syrup", this comedy skewers our consumerism-driven culture as it focuses on a young marketing graduate (Fernandez) who comes up with an idea for a new product called 'Fukk' which he hopes to sell to Coca-Cola.
He soon learns his college friend and former roommate (Lutz) has already claimed the copyright. Eventually he goes to work for the company and tries to undermine his former friend's new secret project at the company - the first feature length advertising movie.
On the one hand it's an enjoyably dark skewering of an industry that really doesn't get a lot of critical examination considering the size and extent of its reach. On the other it is about a bunch of backstabbing, good looking, entitled, twenty-something PR boffins which means finding a likeable character amongst these dickheads will be a tall order.
Both Darren Aronofsky and Steven Soderbergh previously expressed interest in adapting other Barry novels such as "Machine Man" and "Jennifer Government", but this will be the first to make it to the big screen. The question is will the cast and filmmakers screw up the material in the translation.
Opens: October 5th 2012
Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzija, Luke Grimes
Director: Olivier Megaton
Analysis: No-one expected much out of the original 2008 action thriller "Taken". Luc Besson and his Europacorp have been producing a modestly budgeted ($20-30 million each) English-language action thriller at a fairly consistent pace over the past decade. Sometimes they broke through with the likes of the "Transporter" sequels and "Hitman", most however never really took off such as "Kiss of the Dragon," "Unleashed" and "Bandidas".
Star Liam Neeson wasn't an action hero at the time, rather he was still in his 'wise mentor' phase with roles in films like "Batman Begins," "Kingdom of Heaven" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" the highlights of an otherwise quiet point. That is probably why he was cast as retired CIA operative Bryan Mills, a man who sets out to track down his daughter after she is kidnapped in France.
What followed was a slow burn hit whose success unfolded across a year's timespan. "Taken" opened in France in 2008 and much of the world in August/September of that year. Reviews were actually pretty good and the box-office was quite strong. Scheduled for the dumping grounds of January in the United States, many thought it wouldn't do well as pirated DVD rips of the film had been floating around online for months.
Didn't matter, in the end this $26 million movie made nine times its budget in world box-office alone - much of it from the U.S. - and lead to Neeson's reinvention as an action hero. Four years on we're finally getting around to a sequel with the key cast back, a substantially bigger budget, and a large international release expected.
Olivier Megaton replaces Pierre Morel in the director's chair, while the few vague storyline details released thus far have the action set in Istanbul where Neeson and his wife are taken hostage by the father of Marko Hoxha, the man whom Bryan left to die in a makeshift electric chair in the first film. It'll open big and make a good deal of money for EuropaCorp, the big question is can the film really justify itself considering the first film is essentially self contained.
Take This Waltz
Cast: Seth Rogen, Michelle Williams, Sarah Silverman, Luke Kirby, Aaron Abrams
Director: Sarah Polley
Analysis: Just like real estate, the film world has a colourful vocabulary to hock its wares. When a film is advertised as being 'bittersweet', it usually means there'll be the odd laugh in a story that's otherwise about a long, slow and painful process - be it a death, an illness, a divorce or a breakup.
So here comes 'Waltz', a bittersweet story about a couple (Rogen, Williams) who've been together for years and slipped into a routine, with the wife having doubts about the marriage. Then she goes on a business trip and instantly sparks with a stranger (Luke Kirby), a brooding and mysterious artist who it turns out lives across the street from her.
Beloved indie actress Sarah Polley's last film, 2006's heartfelt "Away from Her", was one of the few bittersweet dramas that wasn't either cloying or sentimental - it was an effective and often wrenching take on Alzheimers even if it never entirely achieved a convincing level of sincerity.
Reviews for this follow-up effort, exploring relationships and sexuality of those in their late 20's/early 30's and the all consuming nature of a physical infatuation, paint it in a very good light with high praise for its attention to the little details. An early Summer theatrical release is now set by Magnolia Pictures.
Opens: July 13th 2012
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale, Seth MacFarlane
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Analysis: "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane makes his directorial debut on this fun sounding high concept comedy that will undoubtedly be filled with the twisted sense of humour he often displays on his various animated series. Can that humour work in a live-action non-skit setting though and even if it does, will it get past the MPAA? Hopefully it's a yes to both questions.
The story starts with a Boston kid whose childhood wish for his teddy bear to come to life comes true. Now an adult (Wahlberg) and still best friends, he falls for the woman of his dreams (Mila Kunis) and wants to embrace his adulthood. There's just one problem - Ted's irresponsible, drunken, obscene slacker lifestyle.
Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild co-wrote the script with MacFarlane who voices Ted, a CG creation which explains why this project costs a fairly sizeable $65 million. One fun thing is that Ted's sentience won't be some "only Wahlberg can see it" trick, in fact Ted is a celebrity which leads to some interesting side characters like Giovanni Ribisi as an obsessed stalker. "Community" star Joel McHale is also onboard as Kunis' womanizing boss.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D
Opens: October 5th 2012
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde, Richard Riehle, Bill Moseley, Scott Eastwood
Director: John Luessenhop
Analysis: While "Halloween 3D" is stuck in development hell and looks like it isn't going anywhere, this part reboot and part sequel in the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise was already shot last Summer and is ready to go for a release in October. The question fans have already been asking though is where exactly this, the seventh film to bear the TCM name, fits in the continuity of the franchise.
Platinum Dunes produced both the 2003 remake starring Jessica Biel and the 2006 prequel to it entitled "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning". After talks with Dunes fell apart, "Saw" producers Twisted Pictures snapped up the rights in late 2009 in a deal for multiple films which they will release through Lionsgate.
As a result this will ignore the events of the two Platinum Dunes-produced films, but it will NOT be a remake of the original 1974 independent film either. Instead it will be a direct sequel to the 1974 film but events will take place before those in the blackly comic 1986 follow-up "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2".
In this outing a young woman named Heather who travels to Texas with her friends to collect an inheritance, one that includes the chainsaw-yielding killer Leatherface. Stars from the original franchise including Gunnar Hansen (Leatheface), Marilyn Burns (Sally) and Bill Moseley (Chop Top) make cameos in this alongside a bunch of unknowns who'll no doubt become fodder.
The question is if anyone is still interested. Dunes' 2003 remake wasn't too shabby at the time but the follow-up was utterly atrocious. Twisted's increasingly terrible "Saw" franchise has thankfully been put to rest, but really what is there that's new that can be done with the material? Maybe if we had some strong talent behind-the-scenes - what we've got is the director of "Takers" and the writer of "Jason Goes to Hell". Oh well, makes for a change from all that "Paranormal Activity" craziness.
Thanks for Sharing
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Alicia Moore, Joely Richardson, Josh Gad
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Analysis: "Shame" tackled sex addiction in a very somber, clinical and serious way - in the process yielding one of the best films of last year with a powerhouse performance by its leading man Michael Fassbender. "The Kids Are All Right" and "The Girl Next Door" writer Stuart Blumberg however is taking a different tack with the subject
'Sharing' follows a group of sex addicts working to break the habit in a 12-step recovery support group and forge meaningful relationships for the first time in their lives. While Paltrow and Ruffalo serve as the main couple here, there's no doubt some colorful supporting roles in store for the likes of Pink and Joely Richardson. Should be fun.
Think Like a Man
Opens: March 9th 2012
Cast: Kevin Hart, Arielle Kebbel, Taraji P. Henson, Meagan Good, Gabrielle Union
Director: Tim Story
Analysis: Another film adaptation of a self-help book, this take on comedian Steve Harvey's guide works the actual book heavily into the plot line following a group of men whose love lives are left shaken up after the ladies they are pursuing start taking the advice within the book to heart.
When the guys realise what's happened, they use the book's insider information to turn the tables on them - leading to trite lessons about love and some zingers from Kevin Hart. "Barbershop" helmer Tim Story directs a fairly impressive cast, but judging from the trailer this really is a feature length commercial for the book which itself will probably be more fun than this.
This is Forty
Opens: December 21st 2012
Cast: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Melissa McCarthy, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow
Director: Judd Apatow
Analysis: Has the gild come off the Apatow lily? For the past few years Judd Apatow's name has dominated Hollywood studio comedy features and turned the actors under his wing into household names. It seemed for a while there you couldn't escape him, and his movies scored rave reviews and fairly consistent box-office - domestically anyway.
Yet his films haven't been without their problems. Common criticisms included bloated runtimes, ridiculous scenarios, women who talk like men, and a formula that switched back and forth between sentimental, heavy-handed morality and improv college boy vulgarity passing as 'humor'. Overseas critics and audiences have proven far less enamoured with his works, while even States-side his films have begun to slip with the likes of "Drillbit Taylor", "Year One", and his last directorial effort "Funny People" fizzling.
Now he returns to the director's chair with a more promising looking film about a couple entering their forties. It appears as if Apatow is opting out of the more dramatic turn he took with 'People' and is going back to the lighter laughs of his earlier work. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise their "Knocked Up" roles which now take center stage amidst a pretty amazing cast including Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Megan Fox, Jason Segel and "Bridesmaids" duo Chris O'Dowd and Melissa McCarthy.
Set for a Christmas release, the hope here is Apatow can tighten in his excesses, be a bit more ruthless with his editing and be more grounded and believable with his setups. Hitting one's forties is something all of us have to face some day, so there's plenty of mileage to get out of this premise. I hope he makes full use of it.
This Means War
Opens: February 14th 2012
Cast: Tom Hardy, Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger
Analysis: Having spent over a decade in development, this action rom-com is more famous for who has been attached to it rather than the final result. Originally Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock were set to star in the lead roles until that version was canceled. Robert Downey Jr., Sam Worthington and Matt Damon were also part of defunct earlier incarnations, even "Pineapple Express" duo Seth Rogen and James Franco were once in the mix.
Several years and many re-writes later, the project finally began moving forward very early 2010 with "Charlie's Angels" helmer McG onboard. The story has two best friends and veteran spies falling for the same woman. They end up fighting for her affections using their black-ops warfare tactics, a fight which literally demolishes much of New York City along the way.
Word on the script has been pretty good with some spectacular action set pieces fused with fun one up-manship between the two male leads. Thus it all comes down to the chemistry between the trio and it doesn't seem to quite click judging by the trailers. Both Reese Witherspoon and "Star Trek" hunk Chris Pine are old hats at this genre and neither is really stretching themselves.
It's "Inception" and "The Dark Knight Rises" British star Tom Hardy who is the odd one out. On the one hand a talent like his in this makes it an immediate draw which someone like the more conventionally suited and previously cast Bradley Cooper would not have been. Hardy certainly looks great in a suit, but at times he seems to vary between having fun and being decidedly uncomfortable and makes one wonder if that carries over into the final film.
Slotted for Valentine's Day, this could be one of the few date movies opening this year that will have cross-gender appeal.
A Thousand Words
Opens: April 20th 2012
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington, Cliff Curtis, Clark Duke, Allison Janney
Director: Brian Robbins
Analysis: It has been a long road for this Eddie Murphy family fantasy comedy to hit the screen, four years in fact since it was shot for Dreamworks who gladly handed over the mess to Paramount when the companies split. The film had reportedly disastrous test screenings which lead to repeated delays, while the sheer cost of the project (and reshoots on it last year) meant that it simply couldn't be dumped direct-to-disc.
So for a long time it just sat there in the vaults awaiting a quiet shuffling out to join the list of stinkers Murphy's been involved in over the years including "Norbit" and "Meet Dave" (both of which were helmed by this film's director Brian Robbins). When Murphy was briefly selected as Oscars host, the film was positioned to cash in on that. When he left, Paramount quickly moved it to April 20th - clearing the way for the studio's more promising comedy "The Dictator" three weeks later.
Murphy plays a fast-talking Hollywood literary agent who finds out that he has only 1,000 words left to speak before he dies. Steve Koren penned the script, which hopefully can't be worse than his odious "It's a Wonderful Life" rip-off "Click" with Adam Sandler. Of all the films out this year, this is amongst the easiest to skip.
The Three Stooges
Opens: April 13th 2012
Cast: Chris Diamantopoulos, Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Jane Lynch, Larry David
Director: Peter & Bobby Farrelly
Analysis: It's hard to believe that the Farrelly brothers have been trying to get a "Three Stooges" movie off the ground for over a decade. Despite the script being done in 2002, the project was stuck in development hell for years as it bounced from one rights holder to the next.
The problem was several fold. Instead of a biopic, the Farrellys essentially wanted to do an anthology film - three different half-hour stand-alone segments, all set in the present day, with the characters getting up to the physical slapstick they were renowned for. The eventual film has turned out that way but the contemporary setting highlights just how much that kind of humour has aged despite its universal appeal.
The other big issue was casting. Numerous names came and went and at one point the high profile casting included Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn and Jim Carrey as the stooges - a line-up that sadly never came to be. Johnny Knoxville, Andy Samberg and Shane Jacobson were also linked at one point but that didn't take place either. Instead TV comedians like Sean Hayes and Will Sasso along with Chris Diamantopoulos scored the parts and are decked out in some decidedly awful looking wigs.
The main plot has Moe, Larry, and Curly inadvertently stumble into a murder plot and wind up starring in a reality TV show while trying to save their childhood orphanage from demolition. Will this $30 million update, complete with some impressive star cameos and some not so impressive contemporary gags about iPhones and "Jersey Shore", work? Right now it looks doubtful.
Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Opens: March 2nd 2012
Cast: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum
Director: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Analysis: Who the hell are Tim and Eric? That's a question a lot of people are going to be asking come tomorrow when this hits video-on-demand services ahead of a March 2nd limited theatrical releasee.
The second film adaptation of an Adult Swim show following the limited release granted "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters", 'Tim' has the two guys given a billion dollars to make a movie by the Schlaaang corporation. They waste the money and skip town in search of a way to pay it back. In the process they try rehabilitating a bankrupt mall.
The duo have managed to pull together some impressive talent for cameos and supporting roles including Robert Loggia, Zach Galifianakis, Will Ferrell, Jeff Goldblum, John C. Reilly, Erica Durance and Will Forte. Yet this ultimately looks like just a series of TV sketches chucked together into a barely cohesive storyline - will it have any crossover appeal outside of the show's fan base?
Titanic in 3D
Opens: April 6th 2012
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Victor Garber
Director: James Cameron
Analysis: Until Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" last year, only one filmmaker seemed to really understand and make 3D work for him on the big screen - James Cameron. When it comes to the technical aspects of filmmaking, he's really second to none which can be seen with the stunning remastering job he did for the Blu-ray release of "Aliens" (he also did a similar job for a Blu-ray of "The Abyss" but Fox hasn't set a release date for that yet).
Now comes his re-release of "Titanic" and once again he's done it right. Announced back in 2009, Cameron has taken his time with the project with the conversion process taking about a year to do as he had to be heavily involved "to make sure that the Stereo Space decisions are made correctly". While most 'conversion jobs' are pretty terrible, "Titanic" will be an interesting test of just how good the technique can be.
Cameron is also understanding of those who can't stand 3D either way, as a result pristine new 2D (regular and IMAX) versions have also been struck from a new 4K Master created in the conversion process and will also be available at the same time. The whole kit and caboodle is set to open just a few days shy of the 100th anniversary of the actual ship setting sail and could be one of the shining lights in the otherwise dull movie-going month of April.
Opens: August 3rd 2012
Cast: Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Biel, Bill Nighy
Director: Len Wiseman
Analysis: Paul Verhoeven's original sci-fi cult classic "Total Recall" remains one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most fun onscreen outings. Great one-liners, a triple-breasted prostitute, walk-through x-ray scanners, Sharon Stone as an ass kicking bitch, lots of inventive gore, Martin landscapes and questions as to how much of the actions going on are a dream or reality.
The idea of a remake seems utterly silly, but to their credit those involved are taking an entirely different spin on Philip K. Dick's novelette "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" on which the original 'Recall' was loosely based. Shot in 2D in Toronto last year, this new version comes from a script by "Equilibrium" scribe Kurt Wimmer.
On change is that it forgoes Mars all together, keeping the action on a near future Earth divided into two warring states - Euromerica and New Shanghai. It's in this environment that factory worker Doug Quaid (Farrell) begins to suspect that he's a spy, though he is unaware which side of the fight he's on. Cue a PG-13 action thriller lacking Verhoeven's playful sexuality and knack for graphic violence.
The producers claim this is closer to the book which is "very different" to the earlier film. While there are no alien atmospheric processors, there is technology that allows for near instantaneous travel to the other side of the planet. One big difference is the action - two weeks of the shoot were devoted to an elaborate hover craft action sequence which looks to be the main set piece of the film. Hopefully this will work but I've less faith in it than I did with last year's ultimately not too shabby "Fright Night" re-interpretation.
Tyler Perry's Good Deeds
Opens: February 24th 2012
Cast: Tyler Perry, Thandie Newton, Brian J. White, Rebecca Romijn, Jamie Kennedy
Director: Tyler Perry
Analysis: The one man industry that is Tyler Perry continues with this eleventh directorial effort by the playwright and filmmaker who also has the leading male role this time out - one which doesn't require him to slip on his Madea garb.
The story follows an affluent man (Perry), groomed from birth to take over his family's multinational business, who develops complicating feelings for a single mom (Newton) on the eve of his wedding.
Like all of Perry's films it's a manipulative feel good morality tale that'll no doubt feature his usual over-the-top black character portrayals and melodrama - but at least it seems mildly restrained this time out judging by the trailer. Still, a film only for the faithful.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two
Opens: November 16th 2012
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Peter Facinelli, Michael Sheen
Director: Bill Condon
Analysis: Love or hate Stephenie Meyer's saga, there's no denying the impact of both the "Twilight" books and the films on popular culture. Now however it's coming to an end with the last chapter in the 'vegan vampires and virginal vaginas' series set to cap off and likely outgross the $700 million worldwide that the most recent film hauled in over the past two-and-a-bit months.
Filmmaker Bill Condon was given the arduous task of adapting Meyer's downright strangest and certainly most adult book not just onto film but spread out over two movies. The resulting first part was very much a work for the fans, indulging itself perhaps a little too much in the moments they were clamouring for and resulting in some of the weaker reviews of the franchise thus far - an undeserved honour I think as I found it the second best in the series behind the first film.
The pacing stumbled a bit once it left Brazil, while the now infamous 'psychic wolf conference' scene was a sour note. Other flourishes however were most welcome and the three singularly biggest challenges - the imprinting, the sex and the birth scenes - were handled with both inventiveness and aplomb. With the next part of 'Dawn' though, he faces an altogether different challenge.
The rest of 'Dawn' the book is all about the gathering of vampire clans from around the world to face off with the Volturi who've come to kill Bella's daughter Renesmee. What should build to a large scale vampire on vampire fight ends up being a kind of anti-climactic "whoops we were wrong, lets get out of here" letdown, an ending that divided the fan base at the time of publication.
With the film though the question becomes if Condon has changed the source material to include a more cinematic and visually epic face-off. He also has to handle a raft of new faces and characters playing the assorted different coven members (keep an eye out for Erik Odom, big things ahead for that guy). The film is already on track to break box-office records, the real question is where, in fans minds, will it ultimately sit in this series when think back on it years from now.
Under the Skin
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Robert J. Goodwin, Krystof Hádek, Michael Moreland
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Analysis: That film with Scarlett Johannson as a sexy man-eating alien wandering the moors. That pretty much sums up the third effort of filmmaker Jonathan Glazer following 2000's beloved British black comedy "Sexy Beast" and his less well received 2004 effort "Birth".
An adaptation of Michel Faber's eponymous novel, Johannson plays an alien on earth disguised as a beautiful woman who uses her sexuality to pick up human prey traveling along the desolate highways of Scotland.
Don't mistake this for genre pap though, in an interview with Interview Magazine, Johansson compares the movie to a Bergman film and says it "basically has no written dialogue, and I don't think it's really character-driven…Jon is an incredible visionary, and in the place I'm in right now, it feels really fresh".
The actress also claims she's been working on the film in different incarnations for about eight or nine years while it was in development. Shooting finally getting underway late last year, and with its themes of identity, sexual identity and transformation - no-one is quite sure what to expect with this.
Opens: January 20th 2012
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Charles Dance, Theo James, Sandrine Holt, Michael Ealy
Director: Mans Marlind, Björn Stein
Analysis: Having already opened in the U.S. last Friday where it topped the box-office, reviews for this 3D fourth entry in the vampires vs. werewolves saga were dire, yet not particularly better or worse than the previous sequels. Much like the "Resident Evil" franchise, the 'Underworld' films have been moving away from the mythology-heavy horror mold to more streamlined and less self-serious action fare.
With most of the players killed off in the second film and the mythology explained in the third, the filmmakers opted for a post-apocalyptic style mini-reboot of sorts with humans discovering and then essentially wiping out both the vampires and lycans. As a result only a few are left living underground.
The big draw here is the return of Kate Beckinsale as Selene who is essentially cryofrozen and wakes up 12 years later to kick the ass of both lycans and exploitative scientists. Whatever you think of the films, Beckinsale is the heart of them and still looks great in the black catsuit. Indeed Screen Gems built their entire marketing and promotional campaign around what is essentially stills of Beckinsale pointing guns off screen.
All the high kicking and blood spraying in the world though can't hide a series now fresh out of ideas. A good example of this creative bankruptcy is how the story revolves around the hunt for Michael. Actor Scott Speedman wisely chose not to return for the role, instead the filmmakers pull the old "Trail of the Pink Panther" and "The Crow" trick with a combination of dark lighting, old footage and stand-ins filling in for the character's ultra-brief appearances on-screen.
Charles Dance and Stephen Rea pop in to fill the requisite British veteran roles that Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Derek Jacobi and Tony Curran did in the earlier films, but neither is given either a decent character or screen time to sink their teeth into. Done for a fairly costly $70 million, the movies are no longer as economical as they once were - yet there's no doubt plans underway for a fifth one already.
Untitled Bin Laden Project
Opens: December 21st 2012
Cast: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Idris Elba, Chris Pratt, Guy Pearce
Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Analysis: Following her Oscar success with "The Hurt Locker", everyone was eager to know what filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow planned for a follow-up. Bigelow and 'Locker' scribe Mark Boal began work on "Triple Frontier" about the South American town near the Iguazu Falls that's a mecca for international crime.
Then in late 2010 they put that project on hold in favour of what they were calling a smaller scale international thriller dealing with black ops which would be based on a true story. That film turned out to be a project at one time titled "Killing Bin Laden" which followed Navy SEAL Team 6's attempt to assassinate bin Laden almost a decade ago, an effort that came very close to succeeding.
There wasn't a lot of interest in the project but it looked to slowly be making progress. Then came May 2nd, the day bin Laden was killed by the very same SEAL team. Overnight it suddenly became the hottest production in town. Though some re-writes would be needed, here was a script essentially ready to go and with a recent Oscar-winning director already attached. It became so talked about that politicians from both sides of the aisle got concerned about the film's possible political bias and even potential violations of national security.
At last report Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Idris Elba, Chris Pratt, Jennifer Ehle and Edgar Ramirez are in contention or already set for roles. Otherwise much of the film remains top secret other than a December 19th release date the movie is targeting - meaning it'll have to get moving very soon to reach it.
Volume One: 2 Days in New York, 21 Jump Street, 47 Ronin, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Act of Valor, The Amazing Spider-Man, American Reunion, Amour, The Angel's Share, Anna Karenina, The Apparition, Arbitrage, Argo, The Avengers, A.W.O.L., Bachelorette, Bait 3D, Battleship, Beauty and the Beast in 3D, Being Flynn, Bel Ami, Beneath the Darkness, Bernie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Big House
Volume Two: Big Miracle, The Big Wedding, Blackbird, Black Rock, The Bourne Legacy, Brave, Bullet to the Head, The Bully Project, Butter, The Cabin in the Woods, Casa de mi Padre, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Chimpanzee, Chronicle, Cloud Atlas, Cogan's Trade, The Cold Light of Day, The Company You Keep, Contraband, Cosmopolis, The Dark Knight Rises, Dark Shadows, Decoding Annie Parker, The Deep Blue Sea, The Devil Inside
Volume Three: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, The Dictator, Disconnect, The Divide, Django Unchained, Dog Fight, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, Dredd, Drift, The End, The End of Love, The English Teacher, The Expendables 2, A Few Best Men, Finding Nemo in 3D, The Five-Year Engagement, Flight, Footnote, For a Good Time Call…, Foxfire, Frankenweenie, The Frozen Ground, Fun Size, Gambit, Gangster Squad, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Volume Four: G.I. Joe: Retaliation, A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III, Goats, God Bless America, Gods Behaving Badly, Gone, Goon, Grabbers, The Grandmasters, Gravity, Great Expectations, Great Hope Springs, The Great Gatsby, The Grey, Halloween 3D, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Haywire, He Loves Me, Here Comes the Boom, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Hotel Transylvania 3D, House at the End of The Street, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, The Hunger Games, Hunter Killer, Hyde Park on Hudson, I Alex Cross
Volume Five: I Hate You Dad, Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D, Imogene, The Impossible, In Darkness, Inside Llewyn Davis, Intruders, Iron Sky, Jack and Diane, Jack the Giant Killer, Jeff Who Lives At Home, John Carter, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Joyful Noise, Juan of the Dead, Killer Joe, The Lady, Laurence Anyways, Lay the Favorite, Learning to Fly, Les Miserables, Liberal Arts, Life of Pi, Lincoln, The Longest Week, Long Time Gone
Volume Six: Looper, Love and Bruises, The Lucky One, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Magic Mike, Man on a Ledge, The Man with the Iron Fists, The Master, Mental, MIB 3, Mirror Mirror, Moonrise Kingdom, The Moth Diaries, Movie 43, MS One: Maximum Security, Mud, My Mother's Curse, Neighborhood Watch, Nero Fiddled, No One Lives, Not Suitable for Children, Nurse 3D, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Of Men and Mavericks, On the Ice, On the Road, One for the Money
Volume Seven: Only God Forgives, Outrun, The Paperboy, ParaNorman, Parental Guidance, Parker, Perfect Sense, Phantom, Piranha 3DD, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, The Place Beyond the Pines, Playing the Field, The Possession, Post Tenebras Lux, Premium Rush, Price Check, Project X, Prometheus, The Raid, The Raven, Red Dawn, Red Hook Summer, Red Lights, Red Tails, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Resident Evil: Retribution
Volume Eight: Return, Rise of the Guardians, Robot and Frank, Rock of Ages, Rust and Bone, Safe, Safe House, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Sapphires, Satellite Boy, Savages, Searching for Sugar Man, The Secret World of Arrietty, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Seeking Justice, Seven Psychopaths, Shadow Dancer, Side by Side, Silent House, The Silver Linings Playbook, Sinister, Skyfall, Smashed, Snow White and the Huntsman, Something in the Air, Song for Marion
Volume Nine: Sparkle, Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in 3D, Step Up 4ever, Stoker, Straight A's, The Surrogate, The Sweeney, Syrup, Taken 2, Take this Waltz, Ted, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, Thanks for Sharing, Think Like a Man, This is Forty, This Means War, A Thousand Words, The Three Stooges, Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie, Titanic in 3D, Total Recall, Tyler Perry's Good Deeds, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part Two, Under the Skin, Underworld Awakening, Untitled Bin Laden Project
Volume Ten: Untitled David Chase Movie, Untitled Ramin Bahrani Film, Untitled Terrence Malick Project, Upside Down, V/H/S, The Vow, Wanderlust, Warm Bodies, Welcome to the Punch, Welcome to People, The Wettest County, What Maisie Knew, What to Expect When You're Expecting, Wish You Were Here, The Woman in Black, The Woman in the Fifth, The Words, Words with Gods, World War Z, Wrath of the Titans, Wreck-It Ralph, Wuthering Heights, Your Sister's Sister