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 Do we really need to be

Pixar's sequels have been pretty successful at the box office and so far they've been very good films that stand on their own: "Toy Story 2", "Toy Story 3" and "Cars 2". This streak will be tested next year with the prequel - "Monsters University".

And now comes the news is that Pixar is planning "Finding Nemo 2" - almost a decade after the original was released.

Andrew Stanton, who directed "Nemo", "WALL-E" and Disney's 2012 disappointment "John Carter", will be looking to bounce back from his first venture into live action by directing the sequel to the 2003 Oscar winner. He's pitched an idea to the studio that they've "embraced", so it looks like the movie is in the Pixar pipeline for 2016 (though the studio has yet to make it official).

Some fans think Pixar's already overdone it with the sequels (most weren't happy about "Cars 2") and I've read the criticism that the studio isn't doing enough original projects. But that arguement doesn't work - Pixar's next three movies after "University" will all be originals: "The Good Dinosaur" (2014) and two in 2015 - an untitled film about mind exploration and the other related to "The Day of the Dead".

"Finding Nemo" is a great movie, but it's not one of my all-time favorite Pixar films. The better choice for a Pixar sequel would be "The Incredibles". Many people, especially adults, have this as their favorite because the charcaters are human (and therefore more relatable) and it's the most "adult", serious and action-packed Pixar film. I like it for its off-beat humor as well.

Fan have been waiting for an "Incredibles 2" because we want to see these superheroes battle another villain (hopefully John Ratzenburger's "Underminer" who appears at the end of the original). That film left you wanting more, and with the clear feeling that story of this amazing family wasn't over. But it's been eight years, guys - time to get this project going!

"Toy Story 3" was a perfect way to end that series. I still love Lightning McQueen and Mater, so I'd support the idea of a "Cars 3", but "Cars 2" made $50M less than the original domestically, so that probably won't happen.

"A Bug's Life", "Ratatouille" and "Up" all ended nicely and absolutely don't need sequels. And I'm not a "WALL-E" fan, so I don't think we ever need to see him back on the big screen.

So the question remains - is a sequel to "Finding Nemo" what we really want to see? In my opinion - No. "Finding Nemo" also had a memorable, emotional story and a fine ending. Why mess with something that already worked so well the first time.

"Finding Nemo" is being re-released in 3D on September 14. Pixar will likely officially announce "FN2" during or after that run.

Indie Basketball Film Scores Movie Review

It's a small, independent documentary about inter-city playground basketball. And it was shot in Albany, NY, not far from where I live. But "Ballin' at the Graveyard" is much more than simply a sports film. It's an honest look at the men who spend every weekend a local park to play, most of them for years, and how the game and the relationships they've developed, have impacted, especially off the court.

The first part of the film is all about the game. We learn the rules these guys play by, see the physical action and hear some real, R-rated dialogue. This is a slice urban life that most people who watch this film will not have experienced before. The interaction between the players and the strong desire to win comes through clearly. Newcomers to the court are welcome (including white players) but they will be tested and have to earn their chance to play. And once you get into a game you better win because one of the reasons they called this court (in Albany's Washington Park) The Graveyard is because once your team loses you might as well be dead because you're not getting another shot to play that day.

The middle portion of the movie is the strongest. After getting to know about the key characters and their on-court personalities in the first half, the film turns personal - with one and one interviews in which we hear of their struggles growing-up - poverty, loss of parents, criminal activity - and how they overcame these challenges to become productive and successful memebrs of their communities. We also learn how their dreams of playing big-time basketball never came true, but how the game still means everything to them.

The authentic interviews are inspiring, and the end of the film we see how each of these men spend their Monday-Fridays - doing their best to be leaders for the next generation, again, both on and off the court.

"Ballin' at the Graveyard" is directed by Basil Anastassiou and Paul Kentoffio. Basil is also the interviewer and we hear from him often throughout. The stories are well told and the film is mostly well shot and edited. You do not have to live in Upstate NY or be a diehard basketball fan (or a basketball fan at all), to be impacted by this film.

So far, "Ballin' at the Graveyard" is only being shown in Albany, but hopefully it will expand wider soon, so that more people get the chance to experience this simple, but affective documentary.

You can learn more about the film and get info on screenings at: ballinatthegraveyard.com

UPDATE: American

UPDATE: Along with a new theme park for DreamWorks Animation, the studio has also announced at Comic Con 2012 that a "Penguins of Madagascar" movie is confirmed for 2015 and that they're going ahead with "Kung Fu Panda 3".

DreamWorks Animation has been longing to bring their popular animated characters to a theme park for a long time. After deals with China, Abu Dhabi and Dubai all failed, they've decided that the United States would be the perfect home for Shrek, the Madagascar clan and even Po the Panda. The studio has announced plan to become part of a on-hold mall project in the New Jersey Meadowlands now called "American Dream".

U.S. theme parks are on the comeback trail lately because of Universal's "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" and Disney's "Cars Land", so the timing is right for DreamWorks to get in on the action.

But this project has been in limbo for years. According to The New York Times, previous developers but ran out of money for what the mall that was originally called "Xanado", and the lot has been vacant for three years. Now the new "American Dream" will have "nearly 1.7 million square feet of retail space, an indoor ski hill, indoor sky diving, bowling, an aquarium, a live theater and the 14.7-acre amusement park."

The total cost for this theme park: $1.75 billion (and $1.9B was already spent the first time). The Meadowlands area attracts 55 million people each year, so you'd think it'd be an ideal location for a theme park. But the N.Y. Giants and N.Y. Jets have sued the company behind this project (Triple Five), complaining that the construction will disrupted traffic getting to and from MetLife stadium, and they fear this will continue - since the park is not expected to open until September 2014. And then when it does, traffic jams on game days could be incredible.

But maybe Shrek will finally have a swamp home in the Meadowlands, and Alex and Marty aren't too far away from their Central Park Zoo. It's Po that'll be most affected, having to move from China all the way to New Jersey. Though there are good chinese restaurants in NYC.

American

DreamWorks Animation has been longing to bring their popular animated characters to a theme park for a long time. After deals with China, Abu Dhabi and Dubai all failed, they've decided that the United States would be the perfect home for Shrek, the Madagascar clan and even Po the Panda. The studio has announced plan to become part of a on-hold mall project in the New Jersey Meadowlands now called "American Dream".

U.S. theme parks are on the comeback trail lately because of Universal's "Wizarding World of Harry Potter" and Disney's "Cars Land", so the timing is right for DreamWorks to get in on the action.

But this project has been in limbo for years. According to The New York Times, previous developers but ran out of money for what the mall that was originally called "Xanado", and the lot has been vacant for three years. Now the new "American Dream" will have "nearly 1.7 million square feet of retail space, an indoor ski hill, indoor sky diving, bowling, an aquarium, a live theater and the 14.7-acre amusement park."

The total cost for this theme park: $1.75 billion (and $1.9B was already spent the first time). The Meadowlands area attracts 55 million people each year, so you'd think it'd be an ideal location for a theme park. But the N.Y. Giants and N.Y. Jets have sued the company behind this project (Triple Five), complaining that the construction will disrupted traffic getting to and from MetLife stadium, and they fear this will continue - since the park is not expected to open until September 2014. And then when it does, traffic jams on game days could be incredible.

But maybe Shrek will finally have a swamp home in the Meadowlands, and Alex and Marty aren't too far away from their Central Park Zoo. It's Po that'll be most affected, having to move from China all the way to New Jersey. Though there are good chinese restaurants in NYC.

LCJ's First Half of 2012 Awards Movie Review

We're officially into the second half of 2012, but it's time to look back at the best performances and movies from the first six months with my annual "Half Year Awards":

Best Picture: Live-Action
Bully
Game Change
Marvel’s The Avengers
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Snow White & the Huntsman

Best Director
Wes Anderson - “Moonrise Kingdom”
Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield - “Chimpanzee”
Lee Hirsch - “Bully”
Lorene Scafaria - “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
Joss Whedon - “Marvel’s The Avengers”

Best Actor

Steve Carell - “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
Tom Cruise - “Rock of Ages”
Michael Fassbender - “Prometheus”
Ewan McGregor - “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Tyler Perry - "Madea's Witness Protection"                                                                                                                                   

Best Actress
Emily Blunt - “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Keira Knightley - “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”
Jennifer Lawrence - “The Hunger Games”
Julianne Moore - “Game Change”
Kristen Stewart - “Snow White & the Huntsman”

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin - “Men in Black 3”
Dominic Cooper - “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”
Samuel L. Jackson - “Marvel’s The Avengers”
Mark Ruffalo - “Marvel’s The Avengers”
Stanley Tucci - “The Hunger Games”

Best Supporting Actress
Mary Elizabeth Winstead - “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”
Scarlett Johansson - “Marvel’s The Avengers”
Keke Palmer - “Joyful Noise”
Kristin Scott Thomas - “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
Charlize Theron - “Snow White & the Huntsman”

Best Animated Feature

Brave
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Best Action Film

Marvel’s The Avengers

Best Comedy
The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Best Documentary Feature
Bully

Best Drama

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Best Live-Action Family Film
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Best Costume Design
Marvel’s The Avengers

Best Makeup
Dark Shadows

Best 3D
Titanic 3D

Best Editing
Men in Black 3

Best Visual Effects

Marvel’s The Avengers

Best Original Score

Marvel’s The Avengers

Best Original Song

The Hunger Games - “Safe and Sound” - Taylor Swift

While in NYC last weekend I saw the Broadway musical "Newsies", which is based on the 1992 Disney film that starred a young Christian Bale and Robert Duvall. The movie pretty much bombed, but the show is surprisingly good.

The story, which set in 1899, is about the poor, mostly orphan boys who sold the daily newspaper on the streets of NY. The tycoon they're working for is publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who wants to increase the amount of money each boy has to pay to get the papers each morning that he needs to sell. So the Newsies decide to protest and go on strike, in hopes of getting Pulitzer to change his mind.

"Newsies" is very entertaining, with interesting sets and catchy musical numbers. Jeremy Jordan (who co-starred with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton in "Joyful Noise") leads the talented cast of actor/singers/dancers. "Newsies" is geared to an older audience than previous Disney Theatrical shows. More than half of the seats in the sold-out theater were filled with teenage girls there to see Jordan and the other male performers in the cast. It was recently nominated for several Tonys and won two: Best Choreography and Best Score - both of which are very well deserved.

After the show I got to meet Jordan, who seems to be a nice guy. And I also met and spoke with filmmaker Michael Moore, who had also been in the audience. What a surprise. I took a picture with him and he told me he liked my "Lights Camera Jackson" name. He also said that he enjoyed "Newsies" as well. Disney definitely has another Broadway hit on it's hands.

Because of the success of the show you've got to wonder if the studio is thinking about doing a re-boot of film, with Jordan as the lead.

Superhero Films for Little Fans Movie Review

Normally live-action superhero films are on the big screen and the animated superhero movies (from B-level studios with C-level animation) are either produced for TV or direct to DVD. But Disney and WB have decided to bring comic book and Lego action stars to movie theaters.

WB's "Lego" (opening February 28th, 2014) will star the CGI Lego versions of Superman and Batman. These two iconic superheroes will finally join forces in the same movie. Rumored to voice the "Man of Steel" is the red-hot Channing Tatum, while one of the most popular animated voice actors around, Will Arnett, is expected to get the role as "The Caped Crusader." Arnett's done voice work in "Monsters vs. Aliens", "Despicable Me", "Ratatouille", "Horton Hears a Who!", and "The Secret World of Arrietty". If this is a hit, expect talk to begin of a "Lego: Indiana Jones" movie (with Harrison Ford) and many other spin-offs.

Meantime, Disney has announced plans for "Big Hero 6". The studio teaming-up with Marvel (which they own) for an adaptation of the comic about another group of heroes (lesser known than "The Avengers"). This is the latest of five projects Disney has on their plate, including "Wreck-It Ralph" (opening in Nov.), "Frozen" (2013), a "Mickey Mouse" movie and the on-and-off "King of the Elves"."B.H. 6" is probably 3-4 years away.

Superhero movies have never been hotter and animated kids films continue to be the best guarantee of box office success. So I guess it only makes sense that the new target for superhero films will be little kids (at least starting in 2014). It's an interesting strategy that could have a huge payoff.

Mom and dad can't (or, at least, shouldn't) take Brian and his little pals to "The Dark Knight Rises" for his 6th birthday party, but they'll have no problem spending big money to take them all to "Lego". And they'll have to buy tickets for themselves as well.

Nora Ephron: 1941-2012 Movie Review

Writer and director Nora Ephron has passed away. Ephron was nominated for three Academy Awards for writing the Meryl Streep-Cher drama "Silkwood" and the romantic comedies "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle". Both of those films starred Meg Ryan - "Sally" with Billy Crystal and "Sleepless" with Tom Hanks. Ephron's scripts always featured strong female characters.

She also wrote and directed the 2005 underrated comedy "Bewitched", an updated spin on the 60's TV show. Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell starred as actors cast in a TV remake of "Bewitched". It turns-out that, in real life, Kidman's character is actually a witch. It's a smart, unique and funny film that also co-starred Michael Caine, Shirley McLane and Steve Carell in a small role. "Bewitched" is the first Ephron film I saw and one of the few romantic comedies I've actually enjoyed.

Another great Ephron film was her last as writer/director - 2009's "Julie & Julia". Meryl Streep deserved the Oscar for her incredible portrayl of Julia Child, goes from knowing nothing about cooking to becoming the most famous cook of all-time. Amy Adams is also very good as a young wife and would-be writer/blogger who sets-out to make all of the dishes in Child's first cookbook in one year. The two stories mix together nicely and the film is humorous and engaging, with perfect dialogue, an Ephron trademark. It was one of the best scripts and films of '09.

Nora Ephron has long been a role model and hero to women looking to succeed behind the camera in Hollywood. She will certainly be missed. She was 71.

UPDATE: A

UPDATE: "Brave" opens with a strong $66.7M for the weekend. This marks the 5th highest-grossing open for a Pixar film behind "Toy Story 3" ($110.3M), "The Incredibles" ($70.5M), "Finding Nemo" ($70.3M) and "Up" ($68.1M). "Brave" barely beat "Cars 2"'s open from lasy year ($66.1M). We'll see if that changes once the actuals come-out.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It's always one of the most eagerly-anticipated movie events of the year: the release of a Pixar film. The studio's latest, "Brave", comes out this Friday and the promotion and publicity for the film has been heavy. But will that result in a huge box office?

The average opening for a Pixar movie is $61.5M. Many have done much better. "Brave" has a few things going for it and a few things going against it in its effort to become one of the studio's most successful films.

First of all it's rated PG (for scary action and rude humor), only the 3rd Pixar movie to get this rating. Will that keep parents of very young children from taking them? Also, it's the first Pixar story with a female main character. While this will obviously be exciting and attractive to little girls, history has shown that it's little boys who determine if animated movies geared toward young kids are a big success. Disney announced a few years ago, after the failure of "The Princess and the Frog", that they were getting away from "princess" films, because boys didn't want to see them. And remember the switch in the marketing campaign of "Enchanted" - away from Rapunzel and more toward the Prince and the horse and the action? "Brave" is being promoted as a story of "Girl Power". It will be interesting to see if boys want to see a girl character acting like them.

In addition, Pixar's previous release, "Cars 2", was not a critical or box office success. And this is the studio's first original story since 2009's "Up".

On the plus side is Pixar's amazing track record. And the fact that their movies usually appeal to every age group and demographic. "Brave" could be a financial success even without the young boy audience. If it's a great film people will want to see it. Plus, the "Girl Power" thing is hot right now. Merida may be seen as a young Katniss Everdeen ("Hunger Games") by moviegoers. "Brave" is also being released in 2D and 3D, so the extra ticket prices will help its box office total.

My prediction for opening weekend: $62.5M. Not spectacular but certainly solid. And if the reviews are great and "Brave" is a Pixar classic you can add another $5-$10M onto that.

A

It's always one of the most eagerly-anticipated movie events of the year: the release of a Pixar film. The studio's latest, "Brave", comes out this Friday and the promotion and publicity for the film has been heavy. But will that result in a huge box office?

The average opening for a Pixar movie is $61.5M. Many have done much better. "Brave" has a few things going for it and a few things going against it in its effort to become one of the studio's most successful films.

First of all it's rated PG (for scary action and rude humor), only the 3rd Pixar movie to get this rating. Will that keep parents of very young children from taking them? Also, it's the first Pixar story with a female main character. While this will obviously be exciting and attractive to little girls, history has shown that it's little boys who determine if animated movies geared toward young kids are a big success. Disney announced a few years ago, after the failure of "The Princess and the Frog", that they were getting away from "princess" films, because boys didn't want to see them. And remember the switch in the marketing campaign of "Enchanted" - away from Rapunzel and more toward the Prince and the horse and the action? "Brave" is being promoted as a story of "Girl Power". It will be interesting to see if boys want to see a girl character acting like them.

In addition, Pixar's previous release, "Cars 2", was not a critical or box office success. And this is the studio's first original story since 2009's "Up".

On the plus side is Pixar's amazing track record. And the fact that their movies usually appeal to every age group and demographic. "Brave" could be a financial success even without the young boy audience. If it's a great film people will want to see it. Plus, the "Girl Power" thing is hot right now. Merida may be seen as a young Katniss Everdeen ("Hunger Games") by moviegoers. "Brave" is also being released in 2D and 3D, so the extra ticket prices will help its box office total.

My prediction for opening weekend: $62.5M. Not spectacular but certainly solid. And if the reviews are great and "Brave" is a Pixar classic you can add another $5-$10M onto that.

Five Father's Day Flicks Movie Review

Just in time for Father's Day, here are five recent movies focused on the bonding between father and son that the whole family can enjoy watching:

"The Incredibles" - Pixar's Oscar-winning animated action/comedy about a family of former superheroes who come out of retirement to take down an evil villain. Mr. Incredible bonds with Dash over football and saving the day.

"RV" - Robin Williams stars in this 2006 comedy about a businessman wanting to take a vacation with his wife (Cheryl Hines) and two kids in a huge, rented RV. Williams tries to impress his son (a much younger Josh Hutcherson) by teaching him how to interact with people.

"The Pursuit of Happyness" - Will Smith earned his second Oscar nomination in this true story of a man whose forced to live on the streets with his son (real-life son Jaden Smith), attempting to find a steady job. This is an emotional and powerful drama.

"Night at the Museum" - A clever and original family comedy starring Ben Stiller, about a single father who gets a job as the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. When everything comes to life at night, his son is completely impressed.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" - Based on the Roald Dahl book, this stop-motion animated film from Wes Anderson stars George Clooney as Mr. Fox. He's a newspaper columnist looking to steal food from three nasty farmers. His son Ash wants to get involved in these missions, but Fox denies his presence. But once Ash gets into trouble, Mr. Fox attempts to sacrifice himself for his son. It's a smarter version of "The Lion King".

Interview  with

LCJ: Obviously it takes hundreds of animators and effects artists to make a feature-length film such as “Madagascar 3”. You are an “Effects Lead”. What, specifically, are your duties?

GG: I’m part of the movie for a couple of years. In the beginning we need to figure out how we’re going to build the effects. It’s almost like software development, but in a more visual sense. Then, with about 6-months left in the production of the film, I’m more like a regular artist/animator - doing shots, making explosions and also guiding other artists and helping them work on those effects with the systems we built early on.

LCJ: You also worked on “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”, which came-out in 2008. How much has the animation/effects world changed in the time between the two films?

GG:
It’s changed quite a bit. It parallels the changes you see the in the blockbuster live-action movies. As the computing power grows and the directors want to do more visually outstanding stuff our simulations are bigger and we just do more challenging stuff. Every year they’re always asking for more so everything in this show is a little bit bigger and on a larger scale than it was in “Madagascar 2”.

LCJ:
Seems that with every new, big-budget animated movie the look of the film gets better and better. Do you guys feel pressure to always be trying to top yourselves and the competition?

GG: Yea - we always want to top ourselves. That’s definitely a goal. As far as the competition goes I think the goal here is just to make really, really good looking movies. We’re always trying to go bigger, always trying to go better and in this one I think we definitely did that.

LCJ: There are some extraordinary scenes in the movie: A wild chase, circus performances , a daring rescue.
How challenging is it to animate these and how did this movie being in 3D effect your job?

GG: 3D’s pretty big. We think about that a lot in all the effects we do. There’s a sequence in the car chase scene where the characters slide through a slick with 4-thousand fish and fish are flying in the air. We went back and actually hand animated five or six of the fish out of these thousands of computer animated fish to come right at the camera and fly right past the viewer’s eye to get the maximum 3D impact out of that moment. There are a lot of those moments throughout the film that got called-out, FX-wise, for extra attention.

LCJ: Let’s talk about your background. I read that you didn’t realize that you wanted to be an animator until you got into college - and you attended Skidmore College in Upstate NY in Saratoga, not far from where I am right now. What happened at Skidmore that got you on this career path?

GG: I was kind of a computer geek, with artistic parents. I think the first thing that got me interested in computer graphics were the early Pixar shorts. I think that’s probably true for a lot of CG animators. At Skidmore I was not an arts major I was a computer science major. We had a graphics lab at that time, and it was right around when 3D graphics were emerging, right after “Toy Story” came out.

The school would not let me into the graphics lab because I wasn’t a graphics design major. I just wanted to get in there and make images. So I got a hold of some software on my own on my home computer and just started doing stuff that way. And while I was at school I worked with one of the sculpture professors in the art dept. He was doing a side project and he needed to visualize it. So I did a 3-dimensional visualization of some bridge designs he was working on, and that’s how things got started - just making things move on the screen.

LCJ: You grew-up in NYC and, of course, the “Madagascar” characters are based in NYC. How did you use your familiarity with the city when working on “Madagascar 3”, in which the gang finally gets back home?

GG: In the FX department an explosion looks the same no matter where you are. We really leave it to the art department to drive the design and the look of the film and the visual style to really jive with the story. We take all of our cues from them.

LCJ:
I’ve written in my review that this is the best of the 3 “Madagascar” films because of the script, the performances AND the animation. When you finally get to see the finished film, what are your emotions?

GG:
It really hard. We watch the film over and over and over while we’re making it. When it comes out it’s only a few weeks since the last time we’ve seen it so we haven’t had time to breathe on it. So it’s tough to watch it and have the same reaction as a viewer would when they see it for the very first time. But, that being said, when it has the finishing touches on it and it plays really nicely it’s still really exciting to see it in perfect form.

LCJ: Do you have a favorite “Madagascar” character?

GG:
The penguins are totally my favorites. Skipper - he’s a sarcastic lunatic. I’ve got to go with him.

LCJ: I realize studios like to keep future projects “top secret”, but can you tell us what you’re working on now?

GG: I think I can probably tell you that I’m working on “Rise of the Guardians”, which is going to be out at the end of this year. FX-wise it’s probably one of the most ambitious films we’ve done so far. The FX in this movie are really tied closely to the story. We’re in the crunch time - the last 3 months of working on it - so it’s full speed right now.

LCJ: For a lot of reasons (which I’m not going to give away) “Madagascar 3” seems like the perfect ending to the saga. Would you be surprised if there was a 4th?

GG: You know what? - If you were to ask Jeffrey (Katzenberg) that question I think you might not be so surprised. It’s a really nice ending. It resolves really well. But if the public wants to see more there is more story to be told.

UPDATE: Box Office Battle Movie Review

UPDATE: Alex the Lion proves he's King! "Madagascar 3" beats "Prometheus" $60.4M to $50M.

 

This weekend is the first real competition this year for the top spot at the box office. Let's break it all down for you to see which new release will win the weekend - "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" or "Prometheus":

 

 

"MADAGASCAR 3"

Genre: Animation/Family/Comedy
Rating: PG
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Starring: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Frances McDormand, Jessica Chastain, Sacha Baron Cohen
Number of theaters: 4,258 - 11th widest release of all-time
Running Time: 93 min.
Available in: 2D, 3D
Note: Third installment in successful franchise

"PROMETHEUS"

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Rating: R
Studio: Fox
Starring: Noomi Rapace ("Girl w/Dragon Tattoo"), Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce
Number of theaters: 3,394 - 249th widest release of all-time
Running Time: 123 min.
Available in: 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D
Note: Directed by Ridley Scott ("Alien")


WEEKEND PREDICTIONS

Box Office.com:

1. Prometheus - $51M
2. Madagascar 3 - $49M

Box Office Mojo.com:

1. Prometheus - $55.5M
2. Madagascar 3 - $53.8M

EW.com:

1. Prometheus - $56M
2. Madagascar 3 - $48M

 

MY WEEKEND PREDICTIONS

1. Prometheus - $53M
2. Madagascar 3 - $50M

This could come down to the actuals, but even though "Mad 3" is in a lot more theaters, not everyone is out of school yet, and the "Prometheus" midnight shows did pretty well, which go into the weekend. What could end-up happening is that more people will go to "Mad 3", but because of IMAX and Adult ticket prices (which are more than kids), "Prometheus" will edge-out "Madagascar 3" in terms of box office, However, that could change next weekend.

Box Office Battle Movie Review

This weekend is the first real competition this year for the top spot at the box office. Let's break it all down for you to see which new release will win the weekend - "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" or "Prometheus":

 

 

"MADAGASCAR 3"

Genre: Animation/Family/Comedy
Rating: PG
Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Starring: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Frances McDormand, Jessica Chastain, Sacha Baron Cohen
Number of theaters: 4,258 - 11th widest release of all-time
Running Time: 93 min.
Available in: 2D, 3D
Note: Third installment in successful franchise

"PROMETHEUS"

Genre: Sci-Fi/Action
Rating: R
Studio: Fox
Starring: Noomi Rapace ("Girl w/Dragon Tattoo"), Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce
Number of theaters: 3,394 - 249th widest release of all-time
Running Time: 123 min.
Available in: 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D
Note: Directed by Ridley Scott ("Alien")


WEEKEND PREDICTIONS

Box Office.com:

1. Prometheus - $51M
2. Madagascar 3 - $49M

Box Office Mojo.com:

1. Prometheus - $55.5M
2. Madagascar 3 - $53.8M

EW.com:

1. Prometheus - $56M
2. Madagascar 3 - $48M

 

MY WEEKEND PREDICTIONS

1. Prometheus - $53M
2. Madagascar 3 - $50M

This could come down to the actuals, but even though "Mad 3" is in a lot more theaters, not everyone is out of school yet, and the "Prometheus" midnight shows did pretty well, which go into the weekend. What could end-up happening is that more people will go to "Mad 3", but because of IMAX and Adult ticket prices (which are more than kids), "Prometheus" will edge-out "Madagascar 3" in terms of box office, However, that could change next weekend.

Release Roulette Movie Review

Box Office Mojo.com is a very reliable site that I rely on for news and box office projections and totals. Earlier this week, when went to their "New Dates & Changes" section and saw the all the moves being made by the studios, I was stunned. Here's the break-down:

 - "Thor 2" has been moved up a week from Nov. 15, 2013 to Nov. 8, 2013, because of "Catching Fire" now opening on the 22nd

 - "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer has been pushed back again to July 3, 2013 It will now compete with both "Despicable Me 2" and "Independance Day 3D". Steven Spielberg's "Robopacalypse" has moved from of this day to April 25, 2014.

 - "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", the sequel to last year's "Rise", will open May 23, 2014. Fox has also announced another "X-Men" sequel for July 18, 2014.

 - "Walking with Dinosaurs" will now be Fox's 2013 Family Christmas movie, as it will be released on December 20, 2013 (it was originally supposed to open Oct. 11, 2013). "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", a comedy remake starring Ben Stiller, will open Christmas Day 2013.

 - We're gonna have to wait a little longer for "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters", as it has been moved from March 15, 2013 to August 16, 2013 (not a good sign).

In other news, it's "Rocky" meets "Raging Bull" as Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro are in talks to star in a boxing comedy called "Grudge Match", where two former boxers fight it out one last time. Let's hope this comes together because it sounds like, with the right script, this could be a lot of fun.

The Most Underrated Animated Movies - Pt. 2 Movie Review

Here are the Ten Animated Movies (that have been released since I became a film critic) that weren't as well received by critics as I believe they should have been:

TOP 10 UNDERRATED BY CRITICS (in alphabetical order)

"Cars 2" - For many, it was Disney/Pixar's first clunker. For me, while it wasn't as good as the original, it was still fun and original. Rotten Tomatoes avg: 38%; LCJ Grade: B+

"Curious George" - My second review (that's why it's so short). It was cute, funny and with great hand-drawn animation. The highest RT approval rating on the list, but some critics still didn't review it for the kind of film it was. RT: 69%; LCJ: B

"Gnomeo and Juliet" - A sweet and delightful comedy from Elton John and "Shrek 2" director Kelly Asbury. Puts a nice spin on the classic "Romeo & Juliet", and even includes Shakespeare as a character. For some reason, not everyone got it. RT: 56%; LCJ: B+

"Hoodwinked" - My first review. A smart, clever twist on Little Red Riding Hood with a talented voice cast (Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi). Sure, the animation's not the best, but it's a lot of fun. RT: 47%; LCJ: B+

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" - The third installment in the popular franchise is my favorite (so far), with a great action-packed story and the introduction of likeable new characters (including Simon Pegg's Buck). I hope "Continental Drift" lives-up to "Dinosaurs". RT: 45%; LCJ: B+

"Open Season" - Sony Pictures Animation's first film is one of the best, original animated films of the last decade - about a bear released into the wild, who becomes friends with a deer. It's smart and not just for kids. RT: 48%; LCJ: B+

"Planet 51" - Released in 2009, it's a pretty solid effort. Dwayne Johnson stars as a human astronaut who lands on a planet inhabited by aliens who can talk and act like humans in the 1950's. It's actually a decent idea, and certainly not as terrible as most critics thought. RT: 22%; LCJ: C+

"Shrek Forever After" - One of my favorites in 2010 and the final edition in the successful "Shrek" franchise. Some thought the saga completely ran out of steam but I thought it was the best since the original, and didn't rely pop culture references to deliver big laughs. RT: 58%; LCJ: B+

"Space Chimps" - Got lost in a crowded Summer 2008, this surprisingly funny comedy about chimps who go into space features a talented cast, including Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines, Jane Lynch and Stanley Tucci. RT: 35%; LCJ: B

"TMNT" - The animated reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has great animation and an engaging story. It's a little silly, but still a good time, especially for Turtles fans. RT: 34%; LCJ: B

Say it Ain't So

Paramount's decision to move "G.I. Joe: Retaliation"'s release date from June 29th (just a month away) to March 29th, 2013 is shocking. And their main reason - wanting to convert the film to 3D - is puzzling.

Clearly there's more to this move than that. Here's why it doesn't add-up:

- This was Paramount's big summer release (since "Marvel's The Avengers" was mostly Disney and "Madagascar 3" is a DreamWorks Animation release). What are the left with now? Katy Perry's 3D concert movie.

- The studio's six remaining movies for the remainder of the year are all jammed between October and Christmas Day (but I'm sure that's going to change now. Expect them to spread-out their schedule.)

- And think about all the money spent on the marketing and promotion of "G.I. Joe 2 ": posters, media events,  trailers, the preview at Cinema Con and the Super Bowl ad - all now wasted. It'll be interesting to see if they'll do another Super Bowl ad next year.

Paramount has been delaying a lot of releases lately. The "Star Trek" sequel, "World War Z" and "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" were all originally planned to be 2012 films and they all got pushed to next year. 2013 now set-up as a huge year for the studio, with all these films and a new "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film and "Anchorman 2". Maybe this will make-up for their split with DreamWorks Animation, who will officially begin distributing their films alone starting next year.

As for the 3D explanation, well, you know what I think about 3D. Apprently the gimmick does increase international sales, which is important. But why make that decision now? If they were confident in the film, which came-in $50 million under the budget of the original, and includes new heavyweight action stars Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis) - there's no need to pull it only 5-weeks before it was schedule to hit theaters.

I believe the real reason has to do with disappointing performance of "Battleship" at the box office. Paramount execs. were afraid "Joe" wasn't strong enough to face this summer's action movie competition, including "Brave" the week before and "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises" shortly after the original release June 29 release date.

Bottom line: This "G.I. Joe" apparently wasn't strong enough to battle with the big boys of summer. We'll find-out next March if he can handle the Easter Bunny.

The Most Underrated Animated Movies - Pt. 1 Movie Review

I've thought about making this list for a long time. Big budget studios release blockbuster animated films each year. But what about those "smaller" animated films that may have underperformed at the box office, but were strong with critics? Or even those that may have had neither. Here is a list of animated films that have been released since I started reviewing films in 2006 that didn't get the box office they deserved:

TOP 10 UNDERRATED AT THE BOX OFFICE (in alphabetical order)

"Arthur Christmas" - Last year's "instant holiday classic" has an impressive 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But going up against "The Muppets" and Martin Scorsese's "Hugo" hurt its box office (just $46M).

"Astro Boy" - A 2009 animated movie based on the Anime character that had a more complex storyline than I expected. The distribution by Summit Entertainment didn't help the B.O. - just under $20M.

"Bolt" - 2008's Disney (non-Pixar) comedy about a TV dog who accidently goes out into the real world is clever, funny and full of heart. Even better than that year's "WALL-E", but made a lower than expected $114M.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" - 2009's Best Movie starred George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox, based on the Roald Dahl book. Beautiful stop-motion and a witty script. Some (including me) thought it was better than the Oscar-winning "Up", but it didn't catch on with audiences, making just $21M.

"Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" - This sequel to the first film I ever reviewed was released last April after being shelved for over a year. Clearly not as good as the original (which will make my next list), but deserved better play in theaters. B.O.: $10M

"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" - Aardman's first claymation movie since "W&G: Were-Rabbit" is filled with nonstop laughter from start to finish. But it being moved from a decent Mar. 30 release to the buried Apr. 27 hurt it tremendously - $25M so far.

"The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie" - Yes, a second animated pirate movie made this list. Most moviegoers may not even have realized this came out in theaters January 2008. And while it's geared for young ones, it's fun. B.O.: $13M

"Surf's Up" - A "mockumentary" about surfing penguins. An idea no one had come up with before and it worked. An Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature in 2008, but only made $59M because of a crowded Summer 2007.

"The Tale of Despereaux" - Based on the popular book about a mouse who wants to prove he's a hero. One of my favorites in this genre in 2008. But with mostly mixed reviews and some competition around the holidays, it made only $50M.

"Winnie the Pooh" - My favorite animated film of last year also had a higher RT approval rating than the Oscar-winning "Rango" (91% to 88%). It put a smile on my face the entire time and the same went for most critics. But Disney didn't know how to treat or market the film, putting it up against the final "Harry Potter" last summer and then followed that with a terrible October DVD release date. Box Office: $27M

Coming Soon: My List of the 10 animated films that were underappreciated by a majority of the critics

One of the most highly-anticipated films of 2012 now won't be seen until 2013. Warner Bros. announcing that they're delaying the release of the sci-fi epic "Gravity", which stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock (now you know why it was one of the most highly-anticipated films of 2012).

The studio held rough-cut test screenings recently that were originally called "successful". Could it be that this wasn't the case? "Gravity" was schedule to come-out Thanksgiving week - a very attractive time for films with Academy Award expectations, and word was that WB was gearing-up for an Oscar campaign for Bullock. The spin right now is that more time than expected is needed to complete the very complicated special effects for the sci-fi spectacular. Let's hope that's the reason but with 6 months still to go before the original Nov. 21 release date you do have to wonder.

LCJ's Summer Movie Preview Pt. 2 Movie Review

Here's the second of my three-part look at what this summer has to offer. Several of these June and July releases will help determine whether or not Summer '12 becomes the biggest of all-time:

JUNE (pt. 2)

22 - "Brave" Starring the voices of Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly. Pixar's 13th animated film is the first with a female lead character (and third to be rated PG). Is 13 a lucky number? Preview Grade: B-; Opening Weekend Prediction: $65M; Total Gross Prediction: $215M

29 - "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" Starring Dwayne Johnson, Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum. The sequel to 2009's hit brings in two new big names and loses a few others (Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller). PG: B; OWP: $55M; TGP: $150M

29 - "People Like Us" Starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer. Touchstone's new drama about a long-lost sister hopes to be this summer's "The Help" for the studio. PG: B-; OWP: $20M; TGP: $65M

JULY

3 - "The Amazing Spider-Man" Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dennis Leary. Is a reboot of the successful "Spider-Man" franchise too soon? I think so, but this should still do pretty well. PG: B; OWP: $80M; TGP: $250M

13 - "Ice Age: Continental Drift" Starring the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez. Lopez and Wanda Sykes join the cast in the fourth enstallment. The plot seems a little simple, but families are likely to flock to it, because they love these characters. PG: B-; OWP: $70M; TGP: $175M

20 - "The Dark Knight Rises" Starring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy. Director Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie has all the hype to do HUGE at the box office, and be a critical success as well. But can it take down "The Avengers? PG: B+; OWP: $185M; TGP: $460M

27 - "Step Up Revolution" Starring...a bunch of unknowns. Do we really need a fourth "Step Up" movie? I barely got throguh the third one, with so much in-your-face 3D. I hope that's not the case again this time, but I'm probably wrong. PG: C; OWP: $15M; TGP: $45M


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