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Box Office About to be

By this time next month, we'll be able to wave goodbye to "Iron Man 3" as the highest-grossing film of 2013. "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" will undoubtably claim that title. But just how big will this second installment in the "HG" series be? Here's a break down:

Last year's "The Hunger Games" opened with a very impressive $152.5 million, a total that exceeded each of the "Twilight" films. Why? Because this saga, about teens (and now adults) fighting to the death on a TV show in post-apocalyptic Earth, has more mass appeal than the "Twilight" stories of young vampire and werewolf lovers. "THG" held the #1 spot at the box office for four straight weeks. No film has duplicated that achievement since. Its final grand total of $408 million put it at #3 for the year, behind only "Marvel's The Avengers" and "The Dark Knight Rises".

"Catching Fire" should be able to outgross that figure. Since last year, star Jennifer Lawrence won an Academy Award (for her riveting performance in "Silver Linings Playbook"). And a fellow Oscar winner- Phillip Seymour Hoffman, joins the already star-studded "Catching Fire" cast of Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, and Stanley Tucci. Seymour Hoffman plays Quarter Quell head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee.

And there's no denying that "The Hunger Games" brand has grown in the year and a half since the first release. I believe more people who skipped the first enstallment will take a shot at this one (and catch-up with the first film on DVD). Plus, the trailers for "Catching Fire" are very promising.

Still, I don't see "Catching Fire" opening to "Avengers" numbers ($207m), but it'll come pretty close. And with the Thanksgiving holiday right around the corner, it should follow with a very strong second week.

Opening Weekend Prediction: $172 million
Total Gross Prediction: $475 million

My Best Animated Feature Oscar Predictions Movie Review

I have officially seen all the major contenders for this year's Best Animated Feature Oscar. It's time for my nomination picks:

THE THREE LOCKS:

"FROZEN" - Disney's spectacular musical comedy inspired by The Snow Queen is an animated triumph. With songs destined for Broadway, memorable characters, and two fantastic twists, it's truly the best of the bunch. If you thought Disney tried (and failed) to get back to its core roots with 2009's overrated "The Princess and the Frog", get ready to be blown away.

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" - Pixar's first prequel received mixed to positive reviews from both critics and audiences. So did "Brave", which sadly took home the Oscar last year. But "MU" delivers laughs, college antics, and a lot of heart in the final 10 minutes - enough to deserve a nod.

"THE WIND RISES" - I know what you're thinking: "Aren't all three films are under the Disney umbrella?" The answer is Yes. That's just the way its played out  this year. Two years ago, three of the five noms were distributed by Paramount ("Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots" from DreamWorks Animation along with winner "Rango"). Hayao Miyazaki's final feature is both beautiful and emotional. He won for 2002's "Spirited Away", and he may take home the prize again, in part to honor his legendary career...but we're not going there quite yet.

IF THERE ARE FIVE:

"THE CROODS" - The DreamWorks stone age comedy isn't one of the best from this year's crop, but it's fast, fun, and takes a decent risk at the end.

"DESPICABLE ME 2" - While the 2010 original failed to receive a nomination, the hilarious sequel (which is currently the second highest-grossing film of the year with close to $370 million), should attract enough attention to get on the ballot. The Academy will make up for the mistake of not loving the Minions three years ago.

THE WILD CARD:

"TURBO" - The stronger of DWA's 2013 releases has a unique story and a great payoff. Speedy snail Turbo won over critics this Summer, but was lost in the Minion Mayhem at the box office. Hopefully the Academy will give this better-than-average underdog story a fighting chance.

We'll see if I'm right when the nominees for the 86th Academy Awards are announced on January 16th.

The announcement by Disney that "Star Wars: Episode VII" will be released Dec. 18, 2015 is not only exciting news, but it also means the studios behind the two films previously set to debut on that date - "Inferno" (Sony) and "Warcraft" (Universal) - have to be scrambling to find new spots to open. Either or both could move up a week to Dec. 11, where the only competition right now is "Alvin and the Chipmunks 4". Each of the previous six "Star Wars" films opened in May. It'll be interesting to see how an Awards Season release affects the box office.

And "Star Wars VII" will also share a release day with another somewhat successful film that hit theaters on Dec. 18, 2009: a little Sci-Fi adventure called "Avatar".

Disney's other big news - moving the "Tomorrowland" release from December 12, 2014 to May 22, 2015. This means a couple of things for the Mouse House:

1) It enhances Disney's already impressive 2015 calendar, which also includes (besides "Star Wars VII"): "Cinderella", "Avengers: Age of Ultron", "Inside Out", "Ant-Man" and "The Good Dinosaur". Wow!

2) It allows the studio to be able to focus on "Into the Woods" in Dec. 2014, instead of having to split its attention/promotional efforts between the two films.

 

 

'Globes' Categories Add Some Drama Movie Review

The Hollywood Foreign Press has officially designated which films will be elidgible in which categories for the upcoming Golden Globes. And there are a few surprises.

The movie most were waiting to learn about - David O. Russell's "American Hustle" - will compete in the Drama category. Like last year's "Silver Linings Playbook", O. Russell had a tough choice. He went Comedy with "SLP", which helped Jennifer Lawrence win Best Actress honors.

From the trailer, "American Hustle" looks like a dramatic period piece with some light moments. It will be going head-to-head in the DRAMA category with the likes of "12 Years a Slave", "Gravity", "Captain Phillips", "Lee Daniels' The Butler", "Philomena", and "Saving Mr. Banks", so it may struggle just to get a nomination.

For me, the biggest surprise entry in the DRAMA category is "Blue Jasmine". The film was promoted as a comedy and played as a comedy. Would Woody Allen have done this so Cate Blanchett could avoid going up against Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County") in the Best Actress - Comedy/Musical category? We all know how much the HFPA LOVES Ms. Streep. If this is the plan, it's a smart one. However, Blanchett will still face tough competition from Judi Dench ("Philomena"), Amy Adams ("American Hustle"), Emma Thompson ("Saving Mr. Banks") and, above all (literally),  "Gravity"'s Sandra Bullock.

Along with "August: Osage County" getting a COMEDY designation, the other mildly surprising decision in this category is "Her", which appears more heavy-hearted than light-hearted, but it may help Joaquin Phoenix snag a Best Actor nomination. I also wasn't expecting "The Wolf of Wall Street" to be called a COMEDY, but I guess trailers don't lie. They will face-off against potential noms "Nebraska", "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", "Inside Llewyn Davis" (the sole musical of this group) and "Enough Said".

The 2014 Golden Globes are Jan. 12.

 

It Ain't Over Until It's Over Movie Review

Even though it's only the beginning of November, most analysts believe the five nominees in the Best Actor Oscar category are already set: Bruce Dern ("Nebraska"), Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years a Slave"), Tom Hanks ("Captain Phillips"), Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club"), and Robert Redford ("All Is Lost"). I've already seen the middle three performances and agree that they are all deserving of nominations. Those who have seen "All Is Lost" say it's the performance of Redford's career, and there has been strong buzz coming-off of director Alexander Payne's "Nebraska".

Therefore, the million dollar question is: Can anyone else sneak in a steal one of these spots? Steve Carell and George Clooney are out since their films, "Foxcatcher" and "The Monuments Men", have been moved to 2014. A great performance from earlier this year, Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines in "Lee Daniels' The Butler", is tough to overlook.

And still to come: Oscar Isaac in the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis", Christian Bale in David O. Russell's "American Hustle", Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze's romantic drama "Her", Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street", and Ben Stiller in his own movie - "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty". However, "Mitty" received a mixed reaction at the New York Film Festival, which may have hurt Stiller's chances.

And there's still a performance I'm very much looking forward to: Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom". It will be interesting to see if he's can equal, or even surpass that of Morgan Freeman, who was nominated just a few years ago for playing Mandela in Clint Eastwood's "Invictus".

In short, while there's a clear-cut Top 5, it's still too early to call this race over.

Have Yourself a Scary little Halloween Movie Review

When people think of Halloween movies, they usually go to the horror films. Sure, the "Saw" and "Scream" movies should do the trick if you want to be frightened, but I'm going to recommend three untraditional "scary" films that you can treat yourself to just in time for the holiday:

The good, but not extraordinary "Monsters University" is hitting store shelves this week. However, the film that inspired this year's prequel, 2001's "Monsters, Inc." is a modern animated classic. MI employees Mike and Sulley work at a factory that depends on scares in order to power the city of Monstropolis. When little Boo comes into the picture, Pixar hits a home run with the sentimental messages: it's OK to be scared, but you can also overcome your fears and befriend those who you may not like at first. And how about that door scene! This is a great animated film for the little ones because, even though its' about monsters and scaring, it won't give them nightmares.

While "Marvel's the Avengers", "The Dark Knight Rises", "The Hunger Games", and "Skyfall" dominated the 2012 Box Office, the most intense (and insanely suspenseful) action sequence of last year came in "Flight". Everyone's worst fears about being in an airplane come true, thanks to the combination of an alcoholic pilot, played in frightening realism by Denzel Washington, and visionary director Robert Zemeckis.

And finally, a movie that gives "scary" a complete makeover. In Johnny Depp's breakout film, Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands", we learn:
1) Houses can have very vibrant colors
2) Selling Avon door-to-door has its pluses and minuses
3) What truly matters about someone isn't what's on the outside, but it's their heart and soul on the inside. Remember that when you're picking your costume for Thursday night.

Happy Halloween!

Hayward Gobbles Up

He was at Pixar when the studio began the modern animation revolution and now Jimmy Hayward is in charge of the first feature-length film from Relativity Media and Reel FX Creative Studios. Hayward is the director of "Free Birds", the new turkey buddy comedy starring the voices of Woody Harrelson, Owen Wilson and Amy Poehler (and not Amy Poultry). In this LCJ Interview, Hayward talks about how he got his start as an animator on "Toy Story", the difference between directing live action ("Jonah Hex") and animation ("Horton Hears a Who!") and why "Free Birds" is the greatest turkey movie of all-time.

One Degree of Meryl Streep Movie Review

There are eight frontrunners for this year's Best Actress Oscar. 2-time Lead Actress winner Meryl Streep is going for her 4th overall win as matriarch Violet Wilson in "August: Osage County", opening Christmas Day. There were rumors that The Weinstein Company was going to position Streep for Best Supporting Actress, but they've decided to let Julia Roberts represent that category (already a winner at the Hollywood Film Awards). Streep is at the center of a very competitive Best Actress race, going-up against seven other women she knows all too well:

AMY ADAMS - The 4-time Supporting Actress nominee is aiming for her first Lead Actress nod for her work in David O. Russell's 70's crime drama "American Hustle". Adams has previously worked with Streep on two films: 2009's "Julie & Julia" and 2008's "Doubt". That year, Streep was up for Best Actress, while Adams faced-off against co-star Viola Davis. All three lost. Three years later, Davis (Lead Actress frontrunner for "The Help") would lose again, this time to Streep's performance as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady".

CATE BLANCHETT - In 1999, Blanchett and Streep competed in this category for performances in "Elizabeth" and "One True Thing", respectively. But it was the year of "Shakespeare in Love", so Gwyneth Paltrow took Oscar home. However, Blanchett would win Supporting Actress for 2004's "The Aviator" and in 2008, she did something Streep has never been able to do: score two nominations in the same year, for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" and "I'm Not There". As of now, Blanchett's riveting performance in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" is the one to beat.

SANDRA BULLOCK - One of the most fierce and memorable Best Actress bouts of the past decade: Streep's glowing work as Julia Child, and Bullock's equally strong performance in "The Blind Side". They tied at the Critics Choice Awards and then split (Comedy/Drama) at the Golden Globes. Ultimately, Bullock took home the Oscar. This year she's looking do it again as a Dr. lost in space in "Gravity".

JUDI DENCH - Dench is receiving major buzz as the title character in the dramedy "Philomena", in which she co-stars with Steve Coogan. Back in 2007, Dame Judi Dench and Meryl were both nominated in this category for "Notes on a Scandal" and "The Devil Wears Prada", respectively. But they had to share consolation drinks after every ceremony that awards season since neither could take down "The Queen" - aka Helen Mirren.

EMMA THOMPSON - The recipient of the 1993 Best Actress award ("Howards End"), Thompson may become "the talk of the town" as Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers in Disney's "Saving Mr. Banks". Ten years ago, Thompson and Streep teamed-up for the HBO film, "Angels in America", which sweeped the Mini Series/Movie categories at the Globes, including a victory for Streep.

NAOMI WATTS - Watts was excellent in last year's "The Impossible". Now she's taking on Princess Diana in "Diana", a role that Streep herself gave Watts advice about before filming began in 2012.

KATE WINSLET - Streep is likely hoping for some payback after what happened the last time these two went head-to-head. Back in 2009, Meryl was all set to take home her first Oscar since "Sophie's Choice" for "Doubt" (after winning at the SAG Awards). But The Weinstein Company, the studio behind "The Reader", decided to change Winslet's "place in the race" from Supporting Actress to Lead Actress, and she took the category. There hasn't been a lot of critical praise coming from early screenings of Jason Reitman's "Labor Day", but Winslet could still receive her seventh career nomination.

Odds are only five of these contenders will be nominated, and there's always a chance for a surprise nominee to sneak in. Here are two guarantees: Streep will be one of the five and she'll be very familiar with her competition.

The Toys

"Toy Story of Terror", Pixar's first TV special, is only 22 minutes long, but it's far better than most of the animated features released in theaters this year. The first half plays-on the classic horror movie theme, with young Bonnie and her mom stuck at a rest-stop after getting a flat tire on a rainy night. Woody, Buzz and the gang explore the motel bedroom, but soon find themselves in danger as they try to find Mr. Potato Head, who has suddenly gone missing.

Mr. Pricklepants (voiced by Timothy Dalton) dominates the first half, confidently narrating every situation, because, as Rex the dinosaur says: "He's the only one who knows what the heck is going on!" But "Toy Story of Terror" quickly becomes Jessie's show, as she is forced to face her fears and save the day. New characters, including Combat Carl (voiced nicely in the 3rd person by Carl Weathers) assist in the rescue mission.

Pixar realizes this is a Halloween-themed comedy aimed at both kids and adults. Even so, there are a few moments that will probably frighten the little ones. But the script is as sharp and smart as ever, borrowing from and giving the "Toy Story 2" storyline a fresh look. And the animation is fantastic. In one scene Woody and Co. appeared to be in an ACTUAL hotel bathroom.

"Toy Story of Terror" will air on Disney Channel and ABC Family several times over the next few weeks and is well worth a viewing or two. Forget about those "Monsters", the Toys are Back in Town!

The

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will return as hosts of both the 71st Golden Globes in January and the 72nd ceremony in 2015. The "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation" stars were big hits last year, poking fun at Hollywood's hottest celebs without offending them...minus James Cameron and past emcee Ricky Gervais. Fey and Poehler's monologue was quick, fresh and fun. And they stayed consistent throughout the entire 3+ hour show.

The only bad news is, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are out for the next two years as hosts. I still think their skit presenting Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical was the highlight of last year's Globes. Maybe they'll be asked back to try to top it this year. They're both in potential Best Comedy nominee "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues".

I'm anxious to see what longtime pals Fey and Poehler come up with. They should have a lot to talk about, between the films starring heavyweights George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey, and even Ben Affleck as Batman. And they also get to crack on the year in TV. I'm sure the "Breaking Bad" finale and the Emmy's "In Memoriam" tributes will get some attention.

'Twas the Night Before Halloween Movie Review

As the time approaches for costumes to be picked-out, pumpkins to be carved, and specials to air on TV (including the much anticipated "Toy Story of Terror"), this film announcement is very appropriate. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly made comedic magic together in 2006's "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and 2008's "Step Brothers". Now they are set to reunite for a new comedy called "Devil's Night".

According to CinemaBlend, they'll play longtime best friends Leonard and Gabe, who met as kids on October 30th - the evening before trick-or-treating when pranksters would trash neighborhoods with eggs and toilet paper - and sometime worse. In the old days this was called Devil's Night (or Hell Night in some areas). Later Devil's Night was banned in most towns and cities and the mild pranking was blended into Halloween. Anyway, apparently something happens on one 10/30 to ruin their friendship. So, 15 years later, they get back together to save their neighborhood when things get completely out of control.

This story seems to be a little simple and the plot could be predictable. And, of course, too much slapstick can a long way. We can only hope that Ferrell and Reilly (who's rumored to have a cameo in "Anchorman 2") turn this concept into a comedy treat. One thing's for sure: "Devil's Night" has to be better than "Fun Size", last year's frighteningly horrible Halloween-themed mess.

This Century belongs to Tom Hanks Movie Review

A variety of actors have put together outstanding bodies of work over the past several years. But no one can match the success of Tom Hanks. With his latest performance, as the title character in "Captain Phillips", about to hit theaters let's look back at the impressive list of accomplishments of Hollywood's "Man of the Century":

2001 - 5th Academy Award nomination for "Cast Away"

2002, 2004 - Works with S. Spielberg on "Catch Me if You Can" and "The Terminal"

2004 - Introduces millions to the wonders of Motion Capture technology while playing practically every adult character in "The Polar Express"

2006 - Part of successful screen adaptation of "The Da Vinci Code"

2007 - Makes a surprise cameo appearance in "The Simpsons Movie"

2010 - Brings iconic Pixar character Woody back to life for "Toy Story 3", which becomes the biggest animated movie of all-time

2010 - Wins an Emmy Award as a Producer on "The Pacific"

2011 - Stars in, writes and directs "Larry Crowne" (we forgive him)

2013 - Delivers an Oscar nomination-worthy performance in "Captain Phillips" and possibly another for playing Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks".

Add his Tony nominated role in "Lucky Guy" (Broadway, not Hollywood) and it would be tough to argue that anyone is hotter than Hanks right now.

BIG SCREEN to small screen Movie Review

I can't remember a new, Fall TV Season that was filled with so many actors/actresses much better known for their work in movies. While many (such as Robin Williams) began their careers on TV they later found stardom on the big screen. Here's just a few of the big names who you can now watch, each week, on the small screen: Williams, James Caan, Toni Collette, Anna Faris, John Lithgow, Rebel Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi, James Spader - and that doesn't even count the occassional Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cameos (Samual L. Jackson's appearance as Nick Fury this week will be tough to top).

Will all this star power bring TV audiences back to the networks? Clearly that's the plan, as executives have to be sick of getting their butts kicked by cable competitors HBO, Showtime, AMC, Comedy Central, FX and now, even Netflix.

The early results were promising, but they may not last. S.H.I.E.L.D.'s week 2 rating dropped more than 30%, and while Williams' "The Crazy Ones" pulled a nice 15.6 million viewers in it's first week, it's hard to imagine that number not dropping significantly as well.

As usual, it all comes down to quality. And even the biggest names won't keep viewers coming back if the shows themselves are not good enough. And, unfortunately, as least they ones I've seen so far will have a tough time holding an audience.

The good news: at least most of these stars have movie careers to fall back on.

They Can't Handle the Truth Movie Review

Within the past week, two end-of-the-year releases and potential Oscar contenders have been pushed to 2014. The Weinstein Company's "Grace of Monaco" could have given Oscar winner Nicole Kidman a shot at another Best Actress statue. But the studio's decision to delay the release, because they need more time to finish the film, takes her out of contention.

And that's the same reason Sony Pictures Classics is giving for moving the Steve Carell drama, "Foxcatcher", from its scheduled December 20 release date to sometime in 2014. From the buzz and the new, brief teaser trailer (which still says "Coming this December") it seemed like Carell was being showcased as a legitimate Best Actor contender. This delay also means "Foxcatcher" has to forfeit its prime Nov. 8 premiere at the AFI Fest

And these may not be the last films to drop-out of this Awards Season competition: Paramount says that Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street", starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, is nowhere near ready for it's November 15 release because Scorsese's current cut of the film is "180 minutes". The studio is strongly hinting that the film may not even be done in time for a Christmas Day open. This would be the second year in a row a DiCaprio Awards Season contender got pushed to the following year ("The Great Gatsby").

With possibly all three of these films out of the picture, the race for the 2013 glory narrows significantly. "Saving Mr. Banks", "Gravity", "Nebraska", "Captain Phillips", "American Hustle", "The Monuments Men" and "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" will certainly benefit. But there's no guarantee that one of these won't get bumped to 2014 as well.

You have to wonder if studios are moving their films because they actually do need more time to finish them OR because they're scared of the competition and don't think their films are good enough. It costs a lot of money to run an Awards Season marketing campaign. Execs. may be thinking that it's smarter to drop-out of the race now than to blow hundreds of thousand of dollars promoting a film or an actor/actress who they know can't win.

I hope that's not the case, because if this becomes a trend it will take a lot of the fun and excitment out of Awards Season. We need to have as many films - both big and small - in the running each year to continue to make Awards Season the best time of the movie year. But something tells me that another biggie is going to bow out of this year's race before the calendar turns to November.

Sinking Their Teeth into

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2" is a feast for the eyes - and the stomach, as the leftovers from the original film come to life and threaten to take over Swallow Falls. But are they evil...or simply misunderstood? Ace inventor Flint Lockwood and the gang are back to find-out. "Cloudy 2" marks the directorial debuts for Sony Pictures Animation veterans Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn. In this LCJ Interview the pair (or should that be "pear") talk about their animation idols, how Neil Patrick Harris gets motiviated to do the voice of "Monkey", and why it's no fun to be a tomato.

The Comedy Comeback Movie Review

The Summer 2013 box office proved something that many studios have been ignoring for years: audiences want to laugh. R-rated comedies "The Heat", "We're the Millers" and "This is the End" all performed well. Now here comes Awards Season, which, as always, is filled with plenty of heavy dramas. However, there will still be plenty of opportunities for adult audiences to enjoy some chuckles over the next three months:

"Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" (Oct. 25) - It's Johnny Knoxville as a grandpa and the kid from "Fun Size" on a road-trip, interacting with real people, all of it caught on hidden camera. It looks hysterical.

"Last Vegas" (Nov. 1) - We've seen Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline give amazing peformances over the years. But we've never seen them like this.

"Delivery Man" (Nov. 22) - Vince Vaughn plays the biological father of over 500 kids. Not as raunchy as it sounds, and we may get the best work of his career.

"Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas" (Dec. 13) - Two of my favorite things finally coming together: Madea and Christmas. Plus, Larry the Cable Guy is in it. Should be a lot of fun.

"Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues" (Dec. 20) - We've stayed classy for nine long years waiting for the return of Ron Burgundy and co. Finally, the Action 4 News team is back!

"Grudge Match" (Dec. 25) De Niro and Sylvester Stallone's reunion in the boxing ring + comedy pros Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin = can't miss movie event.

And finally, the comedy that could...go...all...the...way this Awards Season: "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (Dec. 25) - Ben Stiller's remake co-starring Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn is a legit Oscar contender.

Carell's Finest Hour Movie Review

Steve Carell is going to be one of the big winners of 2013. The former star of "The Office" has given us memorable comedic performances in films such as "The 40 Year-Old Virgin" and "Get Smart", as well as dramatic work in "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World". But this year Carell has, and will continue to, catapulte his career to a new level.

While "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" bombed at the box office in March, it was off-beat and quite funny. His performance as a down-and-out former big-time magician who attempts a comeback was the centerpiece of the film.

"Despicable Me 2" stormed 4th of July weekend, making nearly $150 million in it's first 5-days and is about to become Universal's highest-grossing film of all-time. Carell's Gru, the supervillain turned superdad, along with the scene-stealing Minions, have made this franchise one of the most popular and profitable in animation history. Two days later, the indie dramedy "The Way, Way Back" showcased Carell in his most impressive dramatic performance to date as the very nasty Trent, who doesn't see eye-to-eye with his girlfriend's 14-year old son.

And the best may be yet to come. Mark your calendar for December 20 (aka "Steve Carell Day"). In wide release will be the highly-anticipated, "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues". Carell is back as weatherman Brick Tamland, alongside Will Ferrell's Ron Burgundy and the rest of the Action 4 News team. Millions have been looking forward to this sequel since 2004's original. Also in limited release that day is the drama, "Foxcatcher", for which Carell is generating early Oscar buzz. He plays wrestling coach John du Pont, in a film that tells the story of his relationship with Olympic champion brothers Mark and David Schultz, played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. "Foxcatcher" is directed by "Moneyball"'s Bennett Miller.

Carell also pulled-off something earlier this year that hardly anyone in Hollywood can do anymore: he surprised us! After denying it for months, quite convincingly, he did make a cameo appearance in "The Office" series finale. 

At this stage Carell may just be the frontrunner for the annual "LCJ Actor of the Year" Award.

The Best of 2013...So Far Movie Review

Normally Best of the Year lists are dominated by films that come-out at the end of the year - the awards season contenders. And that will likely happen again this year. So I've decided to honor the best of 2013 so far, since many of these films may be forgotten once all the end of the year releases are screened. Here are The Best Films of 2013 - Pre-Awards Season

 1) "Blackfish" - Shocking documentary about killer whales used in theme park shows is the Best Film of 2013 by far. 

 2) "Star Trek Into Darkness" - Director J.J. Abrams' sequel is better than the first. Exhilarating and emotional.

 3) "Despicable Me 2" - More minions means more fun. Tremendous animation, especially in 3D.

 4) "World War Z" - Delays, bad buzz had me worried. But Brad Pitt and co. deliver an exciting Zombie-fest.

 5) "42" - Jackie Robinson biopic. A heart-felt celebration of one of the most important figures in American history.

 6) "Lee Daniels' The Butler" - Forest Whitaker leads all-star cast in this historical drama/inspirational profile.

 7) "The Sapphires" - A little gem from Australia that's funny, sweet and touching.

 8) "Blue Jasmine" - Woody's back! Cate Blanchett shines as a crumbling NYC socialite.

 9) "Fast and Furious 6" - Delivers what it promises. A smart, creative adrenaline rush.

10) "Fruitvale Station" - Searing, true-life depiction of the tragic shooting death of Oscar Grant. Raw and powerful.

Honorable Mention: "Jobs" - Fascinating and surprisingly engaging biopic of the late Steve Jobs, with terrific work from Ashton Kutcher.

 

 

Entering the World of

Stephan Franck is a veteran artist and animator, who's worked on some of the most successful and critically acclaimed animated films of the last two decades, including "Despicable Me", "How to Train Your Dragon" and "The Iron Giant".

Now he brings a legendary tale to life with a "Smurfy" twist as director of "The Legend of Smurfy Hollow" - a new "Mini-Movie" starring the iconic blue creatures that will be out on DVD September 10th, and on TV in October just in time for Halloween. In this LCJ Interview, Franck talks about what The Smurfs have meant to his career, not making a traditional Halloween special and using both CGI and hand-drawn animation.

Cedric the Game Show Host Movie Review

Comedian and actor Cedric the Entertainer is the new host of the long-running game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?". My pal Regis Philbin re-ignited his career as emcee of the primetime version on ABC from 1999-2002 (he won an Emmy in 2001), and came back for brief runs in 2004 and 2009. Then Meredith Vieira took over as host of the daytime edition beginning in 2002, and ended her impressive 11-year run (for which she won two Emmys) earlier this year.

Cedric, best known for his work on "The Steve Harvey Show" and as King Julien's Lemur assistant Maurice in the "Madagascar" movies, previously hosted the 2011 NBC series "It's Worth What?" - a pricing game show co-created by "Good Morning America"'s Lara Spencer. Recently Cedric was seen on the big screen in the horror spoof comedy "A Haunted House" and as the voice of an old cropduster in Disney's "Planes". Currently, he's also the star of the TV Land sitcom, "The Soul Man", which airs Wednesdays at 11pm.

After viewing the first few shows, Cedric seems comfortable enough taking on one of the most popular game shows of all-time. His slick, upbeat personality (hat and all) and jokes based on the questions and answers add some liveliness to the atmosphere. He'll surely loosen up even more when he gets the rules and format of the show down pat. He's got a lot to live-up to, but it appears that Cedric the Entertainer will keep "Millionaire"'s hot streak going, without needing a lifeline or to phone a friend.


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