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Is 3D Dying - Again? Movie Review

"Despicable Me 2" set some positive box office records over the 4th of July holiday weekend. But the animated hit also set a new all-time record for the lowest percentage of 3D tickets sold. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that only 27% of ticket sales for "DM2" over the 5-Day Fourth of July weekend were for 3D showings (about $37 million).

There's no denying the recent decline in interest in 3D. Ticket sales are down. Showings per theater are down (often 3D is not getting primetime slots). This summer "Monsters University" only had 31% of its opening weekend sales for 3D. "World War Z", which faced "MU", did slightly better with 34% 3D $$$. Only 1/3 of "The Great Gatsby"'s $50M open was 3D sales. And blockbuster action films, such as "Iron Man 3" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" saw more than half of audiences choosing 2D over 3D.

These are staggeringly low numbers compared to just a few years ago when 3D was REALLY hot. Films like "Avatar", "Alice in Wonderland", and even "Tron: Legacy" scored big with the 3D technology. "Tron" was able to get 82% of its opening weekend crowds to see it in either regular 3D or IMAX 3D.

Back at the start of this recent 3D comeback I predicted (on "The Tonight Show") that 3D was a gimmick that would run its course and disappear again in the near future. Maybe that time is close. James Cameron, "Mr. 3D" even admits, "I don't think Hollywood is using 3D properly". I agree with him that films like "Man of Steel", "Iron Man 3", or most action films for that matter, don't necessarily have to be in 3D. The 2D digital technology is good enough to provide audiences with an incredible visual experience.

Clearly most movie fans don't see any advantage to watching a film in 3D. Ticket prices are already high enough. Does 3D add to the enjoyment of certain films? Absolutely ("DM2" is a perfect example). But you can still have a great time without having to shell out the extra bucks.

If this anti-3D trend continues, and I think it will, it won't be long before the current 3D glasses will become collectors items, like the old fashioned versions with the red and blue lenses.

Depp's Downturn Movie Review

Johnny Depp currently stars as Tonto in Disney's "The Lone Ranger", which made just under $50 million over the 5-Day 4th of July weekend - flat-out AWFUL compared to "Despicable Me 2"'s $142.1 million. "Ranger" is this year's "John Carter" for Disney. And while it should do better than that film's $73M total when it disappears from theaters in a few weeks, "LR" will certainly not make back its $250 million budget, at least in the US.

"The Lone Ranger" is also Depp's fifth straight box office disappointment. The three-time Oscar nominee's last legit hit was 2010's "Alice In Wonderland", directed by Tim Burton. When that film was released, 3D was really hot, so the high ticket prices helped "Alice"gross $334 million.

Later that year, Depp teamed with Angelina Jolie for the film that host Ricky Gervais (and Depp himself) made fun of at the Golden Globes for two years in a row, "The Tourist". While the trailers actually made the film look pretty good, it was panned by critics and grossed a mere $67 million.

2011 didn't start much better. I'm not counting the animated "Rango" in this list of recent Depp stumbles, though that also under-performed. The highly-anticipated "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" was released during the jam-packed summer season. It made $90 million in a decent opening weekend, but "Tides" went-on to become the lowest-grossing "Pirates" installment in the franchise.

And "The Rum Diary" was a Halloween weekend nightmare. Practically NOBODY saw this movie: $5M open, $13M total. Ouch!

Depp's cameo in last year's film version of "21 Jump Street" was well-received, but the TV-show adaptation that he starred in a few months later BOMBED. "Dark Shadows" was destroyed by "Marvel's The Avengers" opening weekend and was never able to find an audience. Depp and Burton's eighth collaboration was a weird mix of comedy and family drama that didn't work well together, though the film did have a great look.

And now, riding to the rescue, "The Lone Ranger". Well, not exactly. Disney designed this movie to be a star vehicle for Depp, even though he plays the sidekick. He can't take all the blame for what could become one of the biggest disasters in Hollywood history, but he has to take some.

So, will Johnny Depp be able to recover from this slump and, if so, when? Probably. We'll have to wait nine months to find out. His next film, the sci-fi action drama "Transcendence", doesn't open until next April. And Depp is reportedly part of the ensemble in Disney's musical "Into the Woods", due out Christmas 2014. He was cast just before "Ranger" opened in theaters. We'll see if either side has any second thoughts.

My EXCLUSIVE Interview with Tom Hanks Movie Review

Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks could receive a double Oscar nomination this year for his upcoming roles as Captain Phillips in "Captain Phillips" and Walt Disney in the making-of "Mary Poppins" movie "Saving Mr. Banks". He also just ended his Tony-nominated run on Broadway in the play "Lucky Guy".

This past weekend I was able to see one of Hanks' final performances - and really became a "lucky guy" after the show. Getting to go backstage following a Broadway play is always a thrill. Thanks to a friend I was able to meet and talk with actor Courtney B. Vance, who won a Tony this year for his fantastic work in the play. He shared with me that it took a while for the chemistry between all the actors in this very fast-moving and complicated production to perfectly mesh. By the end they certainly had it all worked out.

Following that conversation and getting reading to head out into the street I hear a familiar voice. And coming down the stairs is none other than Mr. Tom Hanks himself. He was saying goodbye to some of his VIP guests and turning to head into another room where longtime friend Peter Scolari (who's also in the cast) had some visitors. But first, he spotted me, walked over with hand held out and, with a wide smile, asked, "Who are you?"

After introducing myself I told him what a great job he did in the show. "Lucky Guy" was written by the late Nora Ephron ("When Harry Met Sally", "Julie & Julia"). She also wrote the screenplays for the Hanks-Meg Ryan collaborations "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail". Ephron's play is fast-paced, funny, fascinating and consistently emotional. The set design is also incredible.

The following is how I best recall the remainder of our conversation. But please bare with me because, afterall, I was having an unexpected conversation with Tom "freakin'" Hanks, so I may not be completely accurate with every word:

LCJ: You've got two big movies coming out.

TH: I do!

Now, much like I had the dream to sing part of the soliloquy from "Les Miserables" with Hugh Jackman (and got to at the Critics Choice Awards) there was something I told myself I needed to ask Tom Hanks if I ever had the chance:

There's a scene towards the beginning of "Monsters University" in which young Mike goes through one of the doors at Monsters, Inc. and encounters a human child. When he hears the child's parents come in, Mike hides. As the parents open the door, the mother makes a comment, and then so does the father. And, to me, the dad character sounded like it could have been Hanks. He's not credited at all but everyone know how Pixar loves to add special, surprises touches to their films. And since Hanks has been the voice of iconic star Woody in all the "Toy Story" films, shorts, and upcoming TV specials I didn't think it was too big of a stretch. So I asked him:

LCJ: I've got a quick question for you.

TH: Sure.

LCJ: Do you have a cameo in "Monsters University"?

TH: No. I don't think so. Why?

LCJ: I swear I heard your voice in the movie.

TH: (pauses and leans up against the wall) Wait a minute. I might have. They (Pixar) call you up to these things...

LCJ: Right.

TH: So I might've gone in one day and they might've said, "Hey could you do this line?" Now I'll have to go see the movie and find out!"

I've done much longer interviews and more important interviews but this surprise, two-minute Q&A with Tom Hanks ranks up right up there with the most exciting I've ever been a part of. And I plan on following-up with him in January at the Critics Choice Awards (chances are good he'll be there for one of his major roles) to see if he found out if that is actually is his voice in "Monsters University".

 

 

Supervillain turned Superdad Gru (Steve Carell), his little yellow assistants, the Minions, and his delightful daughters are all back in the animated sequel "Despicable Me 2". The 2010 original made over $250 million in the US, ranking #10 on the highest-grossing animated films list. It also received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Animated Feature and was one of my favorite films of the year.

In "DM2", Gru's middle daughter, Edith, is once again voiced by singer and actress Dana Gaier. Dana told me in this LCJ Interview about re-auditioning for the role, the film's Hollywood premiere, next year's "Minions" spin-off movie and more!

LCJ's First Half of 2013 Movie Awards Movie Review

We've reached the halfway point of 2013. That means it's time for my annual Mid-Year Movie Awards:

Best Picture
"42"
"Fast & Furious 6"
"Monsters University"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"
"World War Z"

Best Director
J.J. Abrams - "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Marc Forster - "World War Z"
Justin Lin - "Fast & Furious 6"
Richard Linklater - "Before Midnight"
Baz Luhrmann - "The Great Gatsby"

Best Actor
Chadwick Boseman - "42"
Bradley Cooper - "The Place Beyond the Pines"
Leonardo DiCaprio - "The Great Gatsby"
Chris O'Dowd - "The Sapphires"
Brad Pitt - "World War Z"

Best Actress
Julie Delpy - "Before Midnight"
Tina Fey - "Admission"
Carey Mulligan - "The Great Gatsby"
Gwyneth Paltrow - "Iron Man 3"
Michelle Williams - "Oz: The Great and Powerful"

Best Supporting Actor
Kevin Costner - "Man of Steel"
Benedict Cumberbatch - "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Harrison Ford - "42"
Ryan Gosling - "The Place Beyond the Pines"
James Woods - "White House Down"

Best Supporting Actress
Rose Byrne - "The Internship"
Alice Eve - "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Rebecca Hall - "Iron Man 3"
Diane Lane - "Man of Steel"
Zoe Saldana - "Star Trek Into Darkness"

Best Ensemble
"Fast & Furious 6"
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"
"Man of Steel"
"Now You See Me"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"

Best Cameo
David Copperfield - "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"
Leonard Nimoy - "Star Trek Into Darkness"
John Ratzenburger - "Monsters University"
Mark Ruffalo - "Iron Man 3"
Jason Statham - "Fast & Furious 6"

Best Action Film
"Fast & Furious 6"
"Iron Man 3"
"Star Trek Into Darkness"
"White House Down"
"World War Z"

Best Animated Feature
"The Croods"
"Epic"
"Monsters University"

Best Comedy
"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone"
"The Sapphires"
"This Is The End"

Best Drama
"42"
"The Great Gatsby"
"The Place Beyond the Pines"

Best Family Film
"Oz: The Great and Powerful"

The Roger Ebert Award for Best Screenplay
"The Sapphires"

Costume Design
"Oz: The Great and Powerful"

Makeup and Hairstyling
"The Great Gatsby"

Production Design
"Star Trek Into Darkness"

Cinematography
"To the Wonder"

Visual Effects
"World War Z"

Original Score
"Monsters University"

3D
"Monsters University"

Made-for-TV Movie
"Behind the Candelabra"

Pixar: From A to

With "Monsters University" now in theaters, everyone seems to be updating their lists of favorite Pixar movies. So here's mine:

14. "WALL-E" (2008)
The world seemed to fall in love with a robot who...falls in love with a female robot. I didn't. The opening section with no dialogue was...different. But it lost me soon after. Hardly remember anything other than "Hello, Dolly". Found more emotion in Brad Bird's "The Iron Giant" (his two Pixar films will appear much later on this list.

13. "A BUG'S LIFE" (1998)
Nice, simple, fun. Not extraordinary.

12. "TOY STORY" (1995)
I know what you're thinking: "It's the first one! It's still the best! How is it so low?" While it may have been groundbreaking when released in 1995, the first Woody and Buzz story is somewhat weak compared to most of Pixar's films to follow.

11. "BRAVE" (2012)
The first half-hour showcases Pixar's talents. This is a beautiful film to look at and is occasionally funny. But the script is a little too Disney and a little too predictable. It didn't deserve the Oscar, but at least it prevented "Wreck-It Ralph" from winning.

10. "FINDING NEMO" (2003)
Yes, I cried the first time I saw it.

9. "MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (2013)
Charming, effective and honest. Not groundbreaking, but successful in its own ways.

8. "MONSTERS, INC." (2001)
Mike and Sulley are one of the studio's best duos. Works emotionally as you get invested in little Boo. And that door sequence is incredible.

7. "TOY STORY 2" (1999)
The rare sequel that is better than its predecessor. Who can forget the introductions of: Zurg, Jessie, Bullseye, Stinky Pete and the adventures at Al's Toy Barn?

6. "UP" (2009)
Takes some emotional risks that pay-off, and has a perfect, Oscar-winning score.

5. "CARS 2" (2011)
If you take this film for what it is (an animated spy caper) it's a lot of fun to watch.

4. "THE INCREDIBLES" (2004)
A serious superhero movie that works on so many different levels.

3. "TOY STORY 3" (2010)
The final few scenes are unforgettable. Deserved to win Best Picture.

2. "RATATOUILLE" (2007)
One of the most underappreciated of the Pixars. So well written.

1. "CARS" (2006)
A film I could watch over and over and over again and never get sick of. The story of hotshot racecar Lightning McQueen and his travels to the small town of Radiator Springs is completely engaging. Full of colorful characters. Doc Hudson will be remembered as one of Paul Newman's best roles. And who doesn't love Mater? It's a comedy, romance, sports film and underdog story all rapped-up into one, with great messages and a lot of heart. Those who simply continue to see "Cars" as one, long marketing ploy to sell merchandise missed the film entirely.

Too Much

Even though the calendar says summer just started, the second half of the Summer Movie Season is right around the corner. And with it come five sequels that share one common element in their titles: the number "2".

In July, there's the highly-anticipated animated "Despicable Me 2" that's expected to dominate the box office over the 4th of July holiday weekend. On the 12th we get Adam Sandler's "Grown Ups 2", the follow-up to his 2010 comedy (that I disliked immensely) Hopefully Shaq and a few other new additions can make this at least tollerable. 

The following weekend includes "Red 2". This is the sequel to the 2010 surprise hit starring actors a little past their prime who can still kick butt. While it had its moments, I didn't love "Red", but the additions of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins may help make "Red 2" more entertaining. And on Wednesday the 31st, the little blue guys only 3 apples high return in "The Smurfs 2". The 2011 original was clever. Hopefully this follow-up won't suffer the sequel syndrome by including some new, fun elements.

The month of August also features a few sequels. "Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" is the second in the franchise of books turned movies, but, thankfully, doesn't use the "2" in its title. The same can't be said for "Kick-Ass 2". The original came-out so long ago (April 2010) that new cast member Jim Carrey alone may not be enough to get fans excited. Universal's decision to delay the release from June to August is not a good sign.

Summer 2013's only film that uses "2" in a creative way isn't even a sequel! It's Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg's "2 Guns", opening (appropriately) on August 2nd. With a solid trailer, obvious star power and "Smurfs 2" as its only main competition, "2 Guns" has a great chance to be a big shot at the box office that weekend.

Coming in 5 Years to a Theater Near You Movie Review

For a while now, studios have been setting release dates for their upcoming films YEARS in advance. However a new trend in Hollywood is taking this practice to a ridiculous level. Studios are "grabbing the date" by announcing untitled projects (often ones that haven't even been discussed) with openings way in the future. For animation giants such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Blue Sky and Sony Pictures Animation that means setting release dates as far out as Christmas 2018!

This is INSANE! But there is a pattern: SPA found success last year with the late-September release of "Hotel Transylvania" and several of their upcoming releases (including "Hotel Transylvania 2" and this year's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2") will open that weekend.

DreamWorks was originally set to release three animated films this year (as they did in 2010), but "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" was pushed to next March. This July's "Turbo" will be their final film of 2013. However, they're going to try to make-up for lost time with multiple releases in 2014 and 2015.

Since 20th Century Fox now distributes both DreamWorks and Blue Sky animated films, they have decided to go crazy and secure 10 prime dates on the 2017 and 2018 calendar for "Untitled Fox/DWA/Blue Sky" films. They don't even know what films are going where or when. They just want the space! What's even more interesting is that Blue Sky has never released more than one film a year, and the studio already has other projects in the works.

And yes, Disney and Pixar are taking part as well. While it's more interesting to guess if any of Pixar's projects are anticipated sequels or prequels ("Incredibles 2", "Toy Story 4"?), this trend has really gotten out of hand. Does it really mean anything to anyone that there's going to be animated movies opening on dates such as November 23, 2016, March 10, 2017, and December 21, 2018? It's hard enough just to keep track of this year's schedule let alone one in five years!

So what if Pixar and DreamWorks going head-to-head on June 17, 2016 with an untitled film and "How to Train Your Dragon 3"? You can't take any of this seriously because almost all of the dates and films are going to get changed between now and 2018.

It would be much more fun if things went back to the way they used to be: studios developing films years in advance (in secret) and then surprising fans with announcements (like Pixar sorta did with 2015's "Finding Dory"). But the competition for dates and box office dollars has gotten so hot that booking dates five years in advance is probably the norm from here on. But, with more and more animated films coming-out (because of their potential to be big money makers) the potential for some getting lost in the shuffle is greater than ever.

Dissecting Disney's Decisions Movie Review

Walt Disney Pictures is out with some interesting date changes and announcements:

First of all, "Saving Mr. Banks" will now open in limited release on December 13th before going wide on a crowded December 20th. This is the "making of Mary Poppins" drama in which Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney and Emma Thompson is author P.L. Travers. It has already been rated PG-13 by the MPAA. With this early limited opening, Disney clearly is focussing on making this an Oscar contender.

"The Muppets" was a success at the box office in 2011, but not as big as I (or likely the studio) had expected. Nonetheless, a sequel was announced almost immediately. Its title has gone from "The Muppets 2" to "The Muppets...AGAIN!" and now, I think, to a more suitable title: "Muppets Most Wanted". According to the release, the Kermit and the gang go on a global tour and get caught-up in an international crime caper. Ricky Gervais heads the human cast. The film keeps its March 21, 2014 date.

What may be the most interesting new info from the studio this week is the announcement of a sequel to this Summer's "Planes". "Planes 2: Fire and Rescue" will hit theaters on July 18, 2014 (going up against "X-Men: Days of Future Past"). Even though "Planes" doesn't open until August 9, it appears that Disney is already confident enough that it will be a big hit. If you remember, "Planes" was originally going to be a Direct-to-DVD release.

Other new Mouse news includes Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner's "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" (based on the book and due out October 10, 2014); Brad Bird and George Clooney's "Tomorrowland" being moved-up a week to December 12, 2014, and the musical "Into the Woods" set for Christmas Day 2014. While we've heard rumors of actors such as Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt being as part of the cast, no one has been confirmed. Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey are producing a drama for DreamWorks called "The Hundred Foot Journey" (8/8/14) and Untitled Marvel Studios films will officially kick-off the 2016 and 2017 Summer Movie Seasons, in case you want to plan that far ahead.

The one casualty of all of this would seem to be the movie version of "Phineas and Ferb", which has already been on hold for a while now. It was originally scheduled to open this July 26th, but has had a TBD 2014 release date for about a year. With all these new spots now taken, it doesn't seem likely that the boy inventors will be making it to the big screen anytime soon.

Getting into the

There are a lot of streaming video services out there, but only one that has the right to call itself - "Netflix for Family Films".

SpiritClips is a subscriber-based service that offers well known theatrical releases, documentaries, shorts and animated films, along with their own original programming. But what makes it different from the other online movie/video providers is that all of their content is appropriate for the entire family.

Normally, when you hear that something is good "for the entire family", it means that it's designed primarily for little kids. But that's not the case with SpiritClips. The concept is that these movies and videos can be watched and enjoyed by all ages, without concern for inappropriate content. And also (and this, in my opinion, is the best part) that all the films have a strong, positive message - as their website says: "films that inspire and entertain audiences of all ages." Current Hollywood classics available on SpiritClips include "A League of their Own", "Hope and Glory" and Academy Award winners "Good Will Hunting" and "Life is Beautiful". SpiritClips is directly associated with Hallmark, and so all of the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movies are available as well.

Another thing that separates SpiritClips from their online competition is the availability of animated shorts (one of my favorite movie genres). If you don't have time to watch an entire movie, there are dozens of shorts to choose from, and each one has it's own, special charm. If SpiritClips has a signature video I would say this is it: "The Little Frog".

As for their Original Programming, the company just wrapped-up their series called "InspireWire", in which the two hosts showcase web videos of people doing amazing things. You might say it's an inspirational version of "America's Funniest Home Videos". And in this episode about Overcoming Fear hosts Iris and Jeff do something amazing themselves: Skydive. They have nice chemistry together and the show is fun and very well produced.

It's a competitive world out there in the business of online video streaming. But there's definitely an audience for SpiritClips from Hallmark. The monthly subscription rate is $4.99 (the one year discount price is only $35.99) and videos can be streamed to iPhones, iPads, etc.

Can Superman Overpower the

The Summer Movie Season will kick back into high gear next weekend with the highly-anticipated release of "Man of Steel" - the Superman film millions have been waiting for. While director Zach Snyder's previous films (2010's animated "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" and the 2011 flop "Sucker Punch") underperformed, "Man of Steel" has so much buzz surrounding it that it should be one of the Top 5 moneymakers of the year.

Some analists are predicting an $85-$90 million open. Even with all the advance screenings that Walmart is doing the night before its release (one of which I will be attending), I don't see how "Man of Steel" won't make $100 or even closer to $120 million it's first weekend.

The following weekend, however, is when things get interesting. There will be two more BIG releases: the animated Pixar prequel "Monsters University" and Brad Pitt's Zombie Apocalypse thriller "World War Z". The who wins that battle?

You might think the easy answer is "MU", since Pixar has had 13 straight #1 opens. And it's the family film and the first animated film since the kids are out of school. A $62M+ box office (Pixar's average) should be enough to scare-off the competition - right?

BUT: What if "Man of Steel" opens to, say, $120-$140 million - which I don't think is impossible. Big action films tend to drop 50-60% in their second weekend, so "Man of Steel" could rake-in $60-$70 million. Plus, while "MU" has the family advantage, both Disney and Paramount (the studio behind "World War Z") are going after the college kid demographic. Disney has been pitching that group hard because of the "MU" storyline and the fact that these students grew up watching "Monsters Inc." 10 years ago). "World War Z" will naturally grab a hugh chunk of that audience because of Pitt and the fact that it's a movie about zombies taking over the world.

Pixar thought they were taking a huge chance last year with "Brave" (first female lead character) and it ended-up as 2012's highest-grossing animated film. "Monsters University" has to be considered one of the studio's riskiest releases yet.

So who will be crowned the champ on Sunday June 23rd? A lot will depend on how "Man of Steel" does next week, because as of right now, it's too close to call.

A Host of Hosts Movie Review

Along with continuing to review films one of the things I want to do someday is host a game show. What could be more fun and exciting that that?!

Last week I had the chance to meet and interview Todd Newton, who hosts the traveling show, "The Price is Right Live" (when he's not hosting "Family Game Night" on The Hub, for which he won an Emmy last year). This stage version of "The Price is Right" has been touring the country for 10 years, providing all the thrills and prizes of the TV show for million of fans. (click here for my Behind the Scenes story).

After talking with Todd (who's a great guy) I started thinking of the other celebrity hosts who I've had the chance to meet. And the list is longer than I expected:

- Regis Philbin. Of course, Regis has to be at the top. Most people don't immediately think of him as a game show host, but he helped to bring the genre back to life in 1999 with "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (and won an Emmy for it in 2001). He also hosted "Million Dollar Password" from '08-'09.

- Meredith Vieira. I had the chance to meet Regis' syndicated "Millionaire" successor when we were both guests on "The Tonight Show" last year and she couldn't have been nicer. Her calm, personable style has helped keep "Millionaire" popular 15 years after it's debut. Sorry to see her leave the show.

- Chuck Woolery. One of the all-time greats. I got to see him in action when he was touring with "Chuck Woolery's Game Show Marathon" back in 2006. And he was a master. And a really nice guy who, since I was only 8 at the time, couldn't believe I knew who he was. I told him he helped me learn how to read as the host of "Lingo" on GSN back when I was only 4.

- Pat Sajak and Vanna White. During a trip to California in 2009 I went to a taping of "Wheel of Fortune" and got to see this famous in pair in action. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet them. Hope to some day.

- Jeff Foxworthy and Bill Engvall. Met both of these guys, briefly, when they barged-in while I was interviewing their buddy Larry the Cable Guy a few years ago when the trio was in town with their comedy show. And they couldn't have been funnier. Along with their comedy careers they've both made a name for themselves as game show hosts: Jeff with "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader"? and "The American Bible Challenge" and Bill with the re-launch of "Lingo" on GSN in 2011.

- Jane Lynch. She'll be hosting "Hollywood Game Night" on NBC this summer. I had the pleasure of meeting her back in 2010 when she was in town to appear on a local telethon. She was actually one of my first professional interviews, and was incredibly funny.

- Lara Spencer. The "Good Morning America" star is also the host of "Flea Market Flip" on HGTV, and she does a great job. I was lucky enough to meet her twice: once on the streets on NYC as she was leaving GMA and then after attending "Good Afternoon America" last summer.

Which current game show host would I like to meet next? That's easy - Steve Harvey, who has made "Family Feud" must-watch TV once again. Of course he also hosts his own talk show, and has made history this year by picking-up Emmy nominations for both Best Talk Show Host and Best Game Show Host. I'm pulling for him to win both.

No Thrill for Will Movie Review

UPDATE: "After Earth" opens to just $27 million in a stunning loss to "Now You See Me", which raked-in $28.1 million in 500 fewer theaters.

Practically from his first regular appearance on screen (as TV's "Fresh Prince of Bel Air") Will Smith has been guarenteed money. And that includes his music videos. Movies? Smith has been most bankable stars in Hollywood from the start of his big screen career. And it seems there are very few summers when Smith isn't part of a major box office hit.

Well, the Summer of 2013 may just change that. Early indications are that Smith's "After Earth", in which he stars with son Jaden, is headed for major BOMB status. The sci-fi action film is out in over 34-hundred theaters and cost nearly $130 million to make. Yet it's projected to barely make $25M opening weekend and could actually do worse than that, as the early reviews have not been good.

Will Smith blockbusters (which this one could be classified as) always gross well over $100M. And even his "smaller" films, such as "Seven Pounds" ($70M), "The Pursuit of Happiness" ($163.6) and "Ali" ($58.2) attract an audience. His only true bomb so far is probably 2000's "The Legend of Bagger Vance", directed by Robert Redford, which only made $30.9M.

In a summer filled with high powered sci-fi ("Iron man 3", "Star Trek Into Darkness", "Man of Steel") and loads of apocalyptic-themed movies, "After Earth", which is being promoted as more of a star vehicle for Jaden Smith than Will, could be completely ignored.

It will be interesting to see where the blame goes. My guess is that it will directed at director M. Night Shaymalan, once a darling of fans and most critics who has completely self-destructed with his last several films. Smith's credibility as box office gold might be bruised a bit, but nothing that a new hit won't cure.

Soderbergh at home on TV Movie Review

Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh wanted his "last" film (at least that's what he's saying now) to be a major theatrical release. And it was - at Cannes. However, since he couldn't get a studio to pay for and release "Behind the Candelabra", Soderbergh took the project to HBO - with spectacular results.

Ratings for Sunday night's premiere airing of the Liberace bio-pic are tremendous: 2.4 million viewers for the first showing (the biggest audience for an original HBO film since 2004) and another 1.1 for the repeat showing that same night. The performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (and the rest of the cast) are fantastic. The story drags a little in the second hour but considering the star power in front of and behind the camera there's no doubt this is a big screen-worthy film.

But even though he was forced to go to HBO to get "Candelabra" made, it seems like Soderbergh is getting the last laugh. He had previously said he was leaving movies to make TV shows, so if that turns out to be true, then he gets to go-out with a film that's become one of the biggest hits in the history of TV's #1 movie channel. And it likely pick-up multiple Emmy Awards as well. What better way for Soderbergh to announce that he's ready to bring quality projects to TV on a full-time basis.

By the way, if you'd like something to remember the "Theatrical Movie" Soderbergh by, he's auctioning-off a lot of his personal memorabilia, including scripts, clothing and even a clapboard from "Erin Brockovitch". Go to the director's website: extension765.com/auction to get in on the fun.

So far I haven't seen any candelabras up for bid.

 

The Showdown of the Summer Movie Review

UPDATE: "Fast & Furious 6" delivers stunning $98.5 million 3-Day weekend and is aiming for huge $120 million 4-Day weekend. "The Hangover: Part III" will manage an underwhelming $65 million after its first five-days. I predicted that Blue Sky's "Epic" would reach $60M by Monday but will only get to $45 million and lose to "Star Trek Into Darkness", which is holding-up surprisingly well in its second weekend. Despite minor disappointments, experts still believe this will be the biggest Memorial Day weekend of all-time.

Memorial Day Weekend 2013 will be one of the biggest weekends of the movie year. We've got three HUGE releases. The question is: Who wins the box office battle?

Up until two weeks ago, when Warner Bros. moved "The Hangover: Part III" up a day from Friday May 24 to Thursday the 23rd, I was predicting "HIII" would edge-out "Fast & Furious 6" for the title. But I've changed my mind. Even though "The Hangover: Part III" made a solid $3.1 million Wed. night, that money, and the money it makes all day Thursday, won't go into the official 3 and 4-Day weekend box office totals. True diehard fans of this franchise will likley see it either Wed. or Thurs. Plus, the early reviews for "Part III" are worse than those for "Part II" - which is hard to believe. "Hangover III" will be the runner-up for the weekend with $59.5 million 3-day, $73.5 4-day.

Blue Sky Studios' animated feature "Epic" will also do very well, even though it will finish the weekend in 3rd place. This is the first animated film in theaters since DreamWorks' "The Croods" in March, and many kids have Friday off from school in addition to the Monday holiday. I'm expecting this to be the studio's highest non-"Ice Age" opening ever with a $48.7 3-day total. It should reach $60 million by Monday.

So that means that "Star Trek Into Darkness" will be #1. I'M KIDDING!!! J.J. Abrams' sci-fi sequel will take a hefty drop to fourth. "Fast & Furious 6" will be your Memorial Day Weekend 2013 champ with $92 million Friday-Sunday plus another $20 million on Monday. This latest installment of the incredibly successful action film franchise has a built-in audience eagerly waiting to grab tickets. Hopefully it won't disappoint.

 

 

 

 

An

For the past eight years, Blue Sky Studios co-founder Chris Wedge has been working on bringing the studio's latest film, "Epic", to the big screen. He got back in the director's chair for this story of a teenager who finds herself in the middle of a battle of good vs. evil among minature creatures deep in the forest. In this LCJ Podcast Interview with Chris Wedge, he tells me that his goal with "Epic" was to make a big action movie that felt more like a feature film than a cartoon. He also talks about Blue Sky's upcoming "Peanuts" and his thoughts on casting voice actors. And you'll learn one amazing thing that this Oscar-winning filmmaker and I have in common.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Intriguing Animation Movie Review

You might think you're really good at Angry Birds, but clearly the king of the incredibly addictive game is Sony Pictures. That studio has defeated all comers to win the rights to produce the Angry Birds Movie, which has a release date set of July 1, 2016.

Having "Despicable Me" producer John Cohen on board will definitely help turn the world's most popular app into a popular film, but it's still going to be a challenge. And what happens if Angry Birds aren't hot in three years (which is very possible)? This deal would have been a better idea three years ago, meaning the movie would be coming-out this summer. I've seen a lot of Angry Birds merchandice on store shelves since Christmas, and the stuff doesn't seem to be selling.

The Angry Birds Movie news got me thinking about some other chancy animated films that are in the works:

- "Lego": Warner Bros. is hoping that this all-time classic toy will work on the big screen. YouTube is filled with amateur Lego movies, many of them very funny. This story is in the hands of "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord. A pretty good fit. 2/7/14

- "Big Hero 6": Disney's first attempt to adapt a Marvel comics, but this crime fighter series is unknown to most people, even diehard Marvel fans. It's being directed by "Winnie the Pooh"'s Don Hall, which make the project even more interesting. 11/7/14

- "Minions". This should be a no-brainer, as these little yellow guys were the break-out stars of the first "Despicable Me" and are expected to rule this summer's sequel. Still, it's interesting to release a spin-off right on the heels of "DM2". 12/19/14

- "Peanuts": Blue Sky is taking-on the ultimate challenge - bringing the beloved Charles Schultz characters back to the big screen, where they've been less than successful. There's no doubt that Charlie Brown, Snoopy and company are still extremely popular with adults (the ratings for their holiday specials go up every year). But a feature-length, theratrical film? Without a young audience this movie could struggle at the box office, and I'm not sure a lot of kids know/care about these kids. But I know I'll be there opening day! 11/6/15


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Clooney Trifecta Movie Review

The release of the teaser trailers for "Gravity" and "August: Osage County" got me thinking about the incredible second half of the year that's in store for Mr. George Clooney. After spending last awards season in the background (both literally and figuratively) as "Argo", a film he helped produce, won practically everything, Clooney should be front and center when the nominations and statues are handed-out next Awards Season.

First, he's co-starring with Sandra Bullock in "Gravity", the story of two astronauts who have to survive in a damaged space station. "Gravity" was originally schedule for release last November but was pushed-back to this October and the start of the 2013 awards season. The trailer is amazing and the buzz is strong.

Clooney is a producer on "August: Osage County", along with Grant Heslov, who he partnered with (along with Ben Affleck) on "Argo". It stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. This "dramedy" about a dysfunctional Southern family has "Oscars" written all over it. It hits theaters Nov. 8.

Finally, George is also back behind the camera, directing "The Monuments Men", in which he also stars. Oh, and he also co-wrote the script and co-produced this story, based on actual events, of a group of art historians and museum curators who race against time to try to save priceless works of art from being destroyed by Hitler and the Nazis during WWII.

Let's see: A film set during war times, based on a true story, underdogs vs. Nazis, starring Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin ("The Artist") and Cate Blanchett. And a December 18 release date! "Monuments Men" is clearly being positioned as the pre-season favorite for every Best Picture award there is.

Hard to imagine we'll see Clooney standing in the shadows this time around.

 

 

 

 

Finally Getting to See

I wasn't sure if it was ever going to happen. But it's official: "Top Cat: The Movie" will be coming to theaters in America on August 2nd. How many theaters and in what cities is still unknown. All we know now is that it will be a limited release.

This feature-length version of the early 1960's Hanna-Barbera cartoon was produced by Anima Studios (Mexico) and Illusion Studios (Argentina). It was released in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries back in 2011. It turns out that the TV series, which ran on ABC for 30 episodes from 1961-'62, was extremely popular in Mexico, where it ran for years and is still huge. Here in the U.S. it has been part of the cartoon line-up on Cartoon Network's spin-off channel Boomerang.

Take a look at the trailer and some clips - in English for the first time - from our friends at Comingsoon.net

"Top Cat: The Movie" is the first ever flash animated film to be converted and released in RealD 3D. The original cartoon is great and, I'll admit, the clips look pretty bad. But it becomes the 6th animated film of the summer of 2013 - and a must-see for me.

 

 

My 10 Year Anniversary in Movies Movie Review

It was 10 years ago this week that I went to an indoor movie theater for the first time. The film? "The Lizzie McGuire Movie". I was a big fan of the popular Disney Channel TV show starring Hilary Duff and my parents thought this would be the right movie for my first experience sitting in the dark, staying quiet and dealing with the huge screen. We went to a matinee just in case.

As the story goes I didn't sit for long. I'm told that once the movie began I stood, with both hands on the back of the seat in front of me, throughout the entire film - glued to the screen. I don't think I gave my first review from my car seat on the way home, but I must have enjoyed myself because they took me to see "Finding Nemo" a few weeks later and the rest, as they say, is history.

A lot has happened in my life over the past 10 years (and in Hilary Duff's, too). I've now seen hundreds of films, had the honor of sharing my opinions of them on radio and TV, in the newpaper and via the internet. I've traveled to exciting movie events and met dozens of celebrities, movie industry people and fellow critics.

The fact that it all got started 10 years ago is pretty amazing.

Man, I'm getting old!

 

 


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