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How can you tell that a movie franchise has gotten out of control? When a studio orders a sequel to a film that hasn't even been released yet.

"Fast and Furious 7" has been given a July 11, 2014 release date. Star Vin Diesel making the announcement this week at CinemaCon. However, "Fast and Furious 6" doesn't hit theaters until next month (May 24). Production on the "new" film ("7", not "6") is set to begin in August, right after the stars finish promoting the "old" new film. Other franshises have released movies in back-to-back years - but in those cases ("Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Man's Chest" (2006) and "At World's End" (2007); "The Hobbits" for 3 straight Decembers) they were shot at the same time.

Diesel says "F&F" regulars Dwayne Johnson, John Walker and Tyrese will all return for "7" - which I guess means none of them will be getting killed-off in "6".

Wouldn't it just be easier to turn "Fast and Furious" into a TV series - for HBO or Showtime? They could produce 12 episodes a year and then everybody could take a break.








Sports Movies Scoreboard Movie Review

UPDATE: "42" stunned at the Friday box office with $9.1 million. Jackie Robinson biopic won the Weekend Box Office with an impressive $27.25 million, beating "The Benchwarmers"' $19.7 million to have the biggest opening weekend of all-time for a baseball film.

With the opening of "42" this weekend I thought it would be fun to have the latest LCJ Poll ask "Which sport has produced the best films?". While coming-up for with the list for the poll I realized I had to have more choices that I originally thought (which was just baseball, football, boxing and horse racing). I stopped at 12 options, be really should have added a few more, including running, figure skating, table tennis and yes, even dodgeball (but, remember, the question asks "best films" and "Dodgeball" alone cannot qualify the category).

Sports movies are a funny genre. You'd think that they would be popular because most major sports in this country are popular. But for some reason it never works out that way. For example, only one baseball movie has ever grossed over $100M in the U.S. - "A League of their Own" (1992), which made $107.5M. Football has four - led by "The Blind Side" (2009), which made $256M, the highest grossing sports film of all-time. Horse Racing only has one - "Seabiscuit (2003) which grossed $120.2 domestically. Four boxing films have made over $100M, but three of them are "Rocky" movies and the 4th - "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) just barely made it with $100.4M.

Of course box office results and quality are two entirely different things. Recent sports films such as "Secretariat" and "The Express" deserved better box office results and Oscar nominations for stars Diane Lane and Dennis Quaid.

If "42" can make $20M this weekend that will move into first-place all-time for the biggest baseball movie openings. I'm predicting it will come-up a little short ($17.5M), but it should still finish #1 at the box office. But even tremendous performances, a compelling story and great reviews will not allow it to overcome the odds and become a true sports movie $$ blockbuster.







Mo Po -

"Awesomeness" will be returning to a theater near you sooner than expected. DreamWorks Animation has announced that "Kung Fu Panda 3" will be released on December 23, 2015, three months sooner than originally planned.

"KFP3" joins "The Penguins of Madagascar", "BOO" and "Trolls" on the '15 schedule. "Mumbai Musical", which was originally going to be the studio's 2015 holiday movie, will now be moved and could end-up in 2016.

Among the new actors joining the "KFP" cast: Bryan Cranston (who voiced Vitaly in "Madagascar 3") and Rebel Wilson (last heard in "Ice Age: Continental Drift"). All the regulars are expected back, including Jack Black, Seth Rogen and Angelina Jolie. Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed "Kung Fu Panda 2" also returns for this third adventure of Po The Dragon Warrior, and the Furious Five.

The first two "KFP" films together made over $1.3 billion globally. That's a lot of noodles.






Roger & Me Movie Review

Roger Ebert was simply the best. A great writer and also a great TV personality. Many before and after have tried to combine those two, but no one has or ever will do it as well as Roger. He loved movies and loved sharing his opinions of them. He was the reason I became a film critic. The first time I saw Roger on TV I knew what I wanted to be.

My relationship with Roger began several years ago when he found one of my reviews on the internet and retweeted it. Suddenly I picked-up dozens of new Twitter followers, the most amazing being @ebertchicago. This led to an exchange of e-mails and the start of a friendship. A short time later came an invitation from Roger and his wife Chaz to come to Chicago and appear on their PBS show, "Ebert Presents at the Movies". I was fortunate to get to be on three different shows, discussing some of the Best and Worst films of the first half of 2011, along with Hollywood's 3D obsession.

But the biggest thrill from that trip came the day before, when the Eberts invited me to their home. It was an unforgettable day. Roger (of course) was not able to speak, but he communicated beautifully using his laptop and some speakers. After a few minutes, I didn't even notice anything was different. He asked me about my career, I asked him about his, but mostly we talked about movies - for about two hours. It was incredible. I remember one of the films we talked about was the 2010 comedy "Morning Glory", which both he and I both thought was a gem (though most other critics hated it).

Then something unexpected happened: Roger and Chaz led me down to their basement and into their spectacular, private movie theater. Roger screened selected scenes from some of his personal favorites, including 1996's "Hamlet", just for me. It was clearly one of those "is this really happening" kind of experiences.

On the way out we walked down halls lined with racks holding Roger's personal DVD collection, categorized in alphabetical order and by genre. After giving me the copy of "Hamlet" he searched for a few minutes and selected three other DVDs from the racks, handed them to me and insisted that I keep them all. So there I am, standing in Roger Ebert's home holding four of Roger Ebert's all-time favorite DVDs from his personal collection, which are now mine. The words "thank you" just didn't seem good enough. One of the films was Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds". After watching it this past Summer, it's easy to see why Roger loved it so much.

The next evening was a Chicago screening of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon". (There's a story about how the film didn't start for over an hour - but that's for another time). Every major and minor Chicago film critic was in attendance. Many went over to Roger to say hello and wish him well. It was an honor to have been in the same theater to screen a film which he gave One Star.

Roger had a very humorous side. The thing that made both him and longtime partner Gene Siskel so popular is that they took their jobs very seriously but they didn't take themselves too seriously. Look up the clips from when they appeared on the animated series "The Critic" (1995) if you need proof. And Roger was always quite good with Oscar predictions - right to the end. His favorite film of 2012 (mine too), was "Argo", the Best Picture winner.

His friends and family will miss Roger. The world will miss Roger's reviews. The Thumbs Up and the Thumbs Down. His writing style which earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1975. The Four Star reviews and the riffs on the clunkers. His legacy will live on forever. He was fearless, courageous, generous and kind.

Thank you Roger, for inspiring me and countless other film critics, writers and movie fans. We will all continue to watch movies and share our opinions about them. But there will never be another you. 

Disney/Pixar has announced that "Finding Nemo 2" has been officially re-titled "Finding Dory". The release date has also been moved-up from 2016 to Wednesday, November 25, 2015 - so it's a sure-fire blockbuster for the five-day Thanksgiving Weekend.

Ellen DeGeneres herself was the first to make the announcement by posting the film's logo online. This quote from the Emmy-winning talk show host was part of the press release: "I have waited for this day for a long, long, long, long, long, long time. I'm not mad it took this long. I know the people at Pixar were busy creating 'Toy Story 16'. But the time they took was worth it. The script is fantastic. And it has everything I loved about the first one: It's got a lot of heart, it's really funny, and the best part is - it's got a lot more Dory."

So it seems like Pixar is doing something similar to "Cars 2". For that film, they took the breakout star of the original (Mater) and made him the lead. A lot of critics disliked that decision (even though I didn't), but as Oscar-winning "Nemo" director Andrew Stanton (who's also helming this sequel) says, "There is no Dory without Ellen. She won the hearts of moviegoers all over the world - not to mention our team here at Pixar."

Stanton, who also directed Disney's infamous live-action 2012 bomb "John Carter", is giving-out some details of the plot: "One thing we couldn't stop thinking is why (Dory) was all alone in the ocean on the day she met Marlin. In 'Finding Dory', she will be reunited with her loved ones, learning a few things about the meaning of family along the way." Stanton also reveals that the story takes place about a year after "Nemo", and that Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) and the Tank Gang will all return along with several new characters who play a key role in Dory's life.

"Finding Dory" will also mark the first time Pixar has released two animated features in the same year. "Inside Out" will open five months earlier on June 19, 2015. We'll see if that changes because Disney/Pixar may want to make "Finding Dory" their primary Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature for the year.


April Showers Bring Lots of Dollars? Movie Review

This has the makings of a BIG April at the Box Office. And it actually shouldn't be difficult to top April '12 since the highest-grossing movie that month, "Think Like a Man", only made $91.5 million - and even that was a big surprise. Here are the highly anticipated releases that should fill seats at theaters and the pockets of studio execs:

EVIL DEAD - This reimagining of the 1981 horror classic should least, as with all horror films, in week one.

JURASSIC PARK 3D - It's the 20th anniversary of the Oscar-winning classic and the IMAX 3D ticket prices will certainly help.

42 - Baseball. True Story. Jackie Robinson. Harrison Ford. All the pieces are in place for what could be a home-run both at the box office and with critics.

OBLIVION - Tom Cruise in another futuristic sci-fi flick. And who doesn't love Morgan Freeman (latest example: "Olympus Has Fallen")? At least $30M opening weekend.

PAIN & GAIN - Director Michael Bay is trying his hand at action/comedy with Mark Wahlberg and the new Mr. Action Man, Dwayne Johnson. Won't do "Transformers" numbers, but could lift-off the Summer Movie Season a week early if it catches on.

But every successful month still has at least one major flop. And April's looks like:

THE BIG WEDDING - Sure it has a Hall of Fame cast (Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Robin Williams, Amanda Seyfried), but from the trailer, this got BOMB written all over it. Not to mention it was supposed to come out last October. Never a good sign.

And the Wild Card:

SCARY MOVIE 5 - It's been six years since "Scary Movie 4". Will the teen/young adult crowd flock to another "spoof" movie? Appearances by Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen should help. I'm saying  Maybe solid week one, but in the end it won't even do "A Haunted House"'s $40M total from January.


"The Croods", DreamWorks' latest animated comedy, opens in theaters this weekend. It's directed by Chris Sanders ("Lilo & Stitch", "How to Train Your Dragon") and Kirk De Micco ("Space Chimps"), who also wrote the screenplay. In this LCJ Interview the two talk with me about a memorable voice session with star Nicolas Cage, the dramatic elements in the story, the challenge of creating an aminated film with only a handful of characters, designing and creating the "Looney Tunes" style chase scenes and much more.







The Bomb Burt Wonderstone Movie Review

When I was out in LA for Oscar week, I saw A TON of billboards for "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone". Apparently, they didn't help as the magician-themed comedy only made $10.3 million at the Weekend Box Office. It still shocks me that a very funny film with such a star-studded, likeable cast (Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin, etc.) would bomb.

"Burt" was in over 3,000 theaters, and all the stars made MANY talk-show appearances over the past several weeks. If you watched Carell's interview on "The Tonight Show", you could tell that Jay couldn't stop laughing when discussing the plot of the film - he thought it was THAT funny. And I agree with him.

Carrey hadn't been in a film since "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (which I actually liked). Many (including film critic Richard Roeper) thought this was Carrey's comeback film. Unfortunately, most of the reviews for "Wonderstone" were very harsh; currently it has a 38% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

This weekend last year, "21 Jump Street" took down "The Lorax" after two weeks with an impressive $36 million open. "Burt" was likely going after the same audience or even younger since it's PG-13 compared to "Jump Street"'s R-rating.

"Burt"'s weak open is probably the biggest stunner at the box office so far this year.







The Call: Oz or Wonderstone? Movie Review

UPDATE: "Oz" easily wins Friday with $11.4 million. Here's where it gets interesting: "The Call" came in second with $6.2 million, crushing "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" which only efforted $3.7 million. Early Weekend Estimates show just $11 million for "Wonderstone", putting the magician comedy at "Bomb" status. "The Call" is set to make $17 million (my exact prediction) and "Oz" right around $41M (also very close w/prediction). 2 out of 3 isn't bad, I just wish "Wonderstone" was a hit because it's a very funny film.

"Oz: The Great and Powerful"'s $79 million open (I missed by only $3M) finally put some life in the 2013 box office. Will the Wizard be struck down by this weekend by another magician or even an Academy Award winner? It's B.O. Prediction Time!

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" is Steve Carell's first starring role in a comedy since 2011's "Crazy, Stupid, Love". This "magical" farce also stars Steve Buscemi (Mr. "Boardwalk Empire"), Olivia Wilde (who desperately needs a hit), Alan Arkin (hot right now thanks to "Argo") and Jim Carrey, making his first big-screen appearance since 2011's "Mr. Popper's Penguins". "Wonderstone" has a pretty good trailer and the cast has been doing a lot of publicity work. I don't see why it can't make $22 million this weekend. Anything short of that will be a big disappoint for Warner Bros. considering it's in over 3,100 theaters.

"The Call" is loos like an intense, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Oscar-winner Halle Berry stars as a 911 operator who gets calls from victims of a serial killer. Abigail Breslin plays a kidnapped girl who Berry's character helps fight back. There's a built-in horror films audience (the ones who have already gone to, among others, "Mama" and "Texas Chainsaw 3D" this year AND thrillers, such as "Side Effects". Berry really needs a hit: her last was 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand". This has the potential to become a franchise (another "Taken"?). I think "The Call" opens well, but not as strong as "Wonderstone" - right around $17 million.

But neither will be able to conquer The Great and Powerful, as "Oz" will contuinue it's reign as Box office king, raking-in another $42 million. That will put its 2-week domestic total close to $150 million. No wonder a sequel has already been announced.







The Spring of Magic Movie Review

2012 was, among other things, the Year of the Animated Horror Movie (with "ParaNorman". "Frankenweenie" and "Hotel Translyvania"). The first theme emerging so far this year "appears" to be Magic. Three major releases are magician-related, including two out this month:

"Oz: The Great and Powerful" is a prequel to "The Wizard of Oz". The Wizard, a man named Oscar (Oz), is a struggling magician who journeys to the Emerald City and has to use his "powers" to save everyone from the Wicked Witch.

"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone", which opens next week, stars Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi as a modern, Vegas-type team whose magic act has become outdated. Jim Carrey plays Steve Gray. a rival who takes a more modern, Criss Angel-type approach to his work. Looks very funny.

And "Now You See Me" (opening June 7th) is part sci-fi, part drama, part crime mystery, centered around three magicians (played by Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, and Isla Fisher). The new trailer is playing before "Oz", and I'll likely see it again next week before "Burt Wonderstone". Morgan Freeman (who perfectly narrates the trailer) reunites in the supporting cast with "Dark Knight" co-star Michael Caine. And that's not an illusion.





Time to Talk about Times Movie Review

It wasn't that long ago that, for fans to see a movie before it's scheduled release date (unless there was a preview screening) they had to go to a midnight show the night before. Yes, technically, midnight is really the next day, but you get the idea. Thursday Midnight showings for blockbusters, especially during Summer Movie Season, became the common practice.

Within the past few months, the 10p Thursday Night showings started popping-up. Clearly these are not same-day screenings, but the studios obviously realize that midnight showings that aren't during the summer are very difficult for most people to attend. Should the "night before" money generated by these early screenings count in the weekend box office totals? I say no - because this gives an unfair advantage to the films that offer the 10p screenings.

Well, now 9p Thursday night screenings are about to appears at a mutliplex near you, starting this week with "Oz: The Great and Powerful" (update: most theaters have now moved to 8p shows). All the ads still say: "In Theaters Friday", but "Oz" screenings will be taking place all over the country Thursday night, beginning at 9p. There's a banner ad on this website with a clock counting-down to midnight Thursday night, even though thousands of people will have already seen the entire movie by then. 9p is still a little late for kids who have to get up for school on Friday morning (especially since the film is over 2 hrs long), but is this the new trend that we'll be seeing from now on?

Paramount is advertising that "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" will now be opening on Thursday, March 28th, but there's no confirmation yet whether that means 9p/10p shows or that it's going to be a full Thursday release.

At some point every studio will simply have to start saying "In Theaters Thursday Night", and the industry will have to go to 4-day weekend box office totals. New releases come out on Thursday down in Australia, so maybe we're heading in that direction. But then it won't be long before some studio comes-up with the plan to do Wednesday Midnight showings...Then 10p...Then 9p...Then 8...Then...





The Goodman Effect Movie Review

Once is an event. Twice is a pattern.

Each of the past two Best Picture Oscar winners has featured John Goodman in a memorable supporting role. Many people are writing this week about the possible 2014 Oscar contenders and their lists are long and varied. But for me it's not that difficult - since Goodman's only in five films:

"Inside Llewyn Davis" - The Coen Brothers are back with this drama set in NYC during the folk-music scene of the 60's. Three of their last four films have received Best Picture nominations. Early buzz is very good.

"Monsters University" - Goodman returns as the voice of Sully in this prequel to Pixar's "Monsters Inc.". No chance to win Best Picture (or probably a nomination), but Best Animated Feature is certainly a possibility.

"The Hangover Part III" - Hey, even John Goodman has to pay the bills.

"The Internship" - Comedy about two middle-aged friends (Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn) who become interns at Google. Could be funny, won't be an awards contender.

"Monuments Men" - Here's the winner: George Clooney directs this "based on a true story" drama about the daring rescue of priceless works of art from the Nazis during WWII. Clooney also stars, along with Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin AND Goodman. And it also has a coveted Dec. 18 release date. Start engraving the statue now.

So, a second straight Oscars show will end with Clooney on stage, this time in the role of Ben Affleck (star, director, producer). But the better streak will be Goodman's, as he will make it three straight Best Picture wins.

Wonder what projects he's looking at for 2014?



LCJ's 2013 Oscar Predictions Movie Review

Here are my predictions for Sunday's "85th Annual Academy Awards" in all 24 categories. The winners will kind be spread-out this year: "Lincoln" will lead with 4 Oscars, followed by "Argo" and "Les Miserables" with 3 each:

Best Picture - "Argo"
Best Director - Steven Spielberg - "Lincoln"
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis - "Lincoln"
Best Actress - Jennifer Lawrence - "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Supporting Actor - Robert De Niro - "Silver Linings Playbook"
Best Supporting Actress - Anne Hathaway - "Les Miserables"
Best Animated Feature - "Wreck-It Ralph"
Best Documentary Feature - "Searching for Sugar Man"
Best Foreign Language Film - "Amour"
Best Original Screenplay - Mark Boal - "Zero Dark Thirty"
Best Adapted Screenplay - Chris Terrio - "Argo"
Best Animated Short Film - "Adam and Dog"
Best Live-Action Short Film - "Henry"
Best Documentary Short Film - "Open Heart"
Best Visual Effects - "Life of Pi"
Best Cinematography - "Life of Pi"
Best Production Design - "Lincoln"
Best Makeup and Hairstyling - "Les Miserables"
Best Costume Design - "Anna Karenina"
Best Film Editing - "Argo"
Best Sound Editing - "Skyfall"
Best Sound Mixing - "Les Miserables"
Best Original Score - "Lincoln"
Best Original Song - "Skyfall" - music and lyrics by Adele and Paul Epworth - "Skyfall"

Seth MacFarlane will be a big hit, and the show will end at approx. 12:10 am ET


Best Picture Nominees A-F
Argo - A
Silver Linings Playbook - A
Lincoln - A-
Les Miserables - B+
Zero Dark Thirty - B+
Amour - B
Beasts of the Southern Wild - B-
Django Unchained - C
Life of Pi - C

The 2013 LCJ Movie Awards Movie Review

We're just a week away from The 85th Annual Academy Awards and that means it's time for the 2nd Annual LCJ MOVIE AWARDS. This year, I've added 5 new categories for a grand total of 30! Who gets to add this award to their resume? The envelopes please:







Best Picture
Marvel's The Avengers
The Impossible
Les Miserables
Ruby Sparks
Searching for Sugar Man
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director
Ben Affleck - "Argo"
Kathryn Bigelow - "Zero Dark Thirty"
Tom Hooper - "Les Miserables"
Steven Spielberg - "Lincoln"
Joe Wright - "Anna Karenina"

Best Actor
Jack Black - "Bernie"
Daniel Day-Lewis - "Lincoln"
Hugh Jackman - "Les Miserables"
Jean-Louis Trintignant - "Amour"
Denzel Washington - "Flight"

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain - "Zero Dark Thirty"
Jennifer Lawrence - "Silver Linings Playbook"
Helen Mirren - "Hitchcock"
Emmanuelle Riva - "Amour"
Naomi Watts - "The Impossible"

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin - "Argo"
Josh Brolin - "Men in Black 3"
Robert De Niro - "Silver Linings Playbook"
Tommy Lee Jones - "Lincoln"
Ewan McGregor - "The Impossible"

Best Supporting Actress
Judi Dench - "Skyfall"
Sally Field - "Lincoln"
Anne Hathaway - "Les Miserables"
Whitney Houston - "Sparkle"
Charlize Theron - "Snow White & the Huntsman"

Best Younger Actor/Actress
CJ Adams - "The Odd Life of Timothy Green"
Kara Hayward - "Moonrise Kingdom"
Tom Holland - "The Impossible"
Suraj Sharma - "Life of Pi"
Quvenzhane Wallis - "Beasts of the Southern Wild"

Best Animated Feature
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Best Director of an Animated Feature
Tim Burton - "Frankenweenie"
Chris Butler & Sam Fell - "ParaNorman"
Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath & Conrad Vernon - "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"
Peter Lord & Jeff Newitt - "The Pirates! Band of Misfits"
Peter Ramsey - "Rise of the Guardians"

Best Documentary Feature
Katy Perry: Part of Me
Searching for Sugar Man
Side by Side

Best Action Film
Marvel's The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
The Expendables 2
Snow White & the Huntsman

Best Comedy
The Campaign
Ruby Sparks
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Drama
The Impossible
Les Miserables
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Best Family Film
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
The Three Stooges

Best Ensemble
Marvel's The Avengers
Les Miserables
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Original Screenplay
Ruby Sparks
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Impossible
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Animated Short Film
Adam and Dog
Daffy's Rhapsody
Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"
Partysaurus Rex
Tangled Ever After

Best Editing
Searching for Sugar Man
Side by Side
Silver Linings Playbook

Best Cinematography
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Art Direction
Anna Karenina
Cloud Atlas
Promised Land

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Dark Shadows
The Hunger Games
Les Miserables
Men in Black 3

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina
Marvel's The Avengers
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Mirror Mirror

Best Visual Effects
The Amazing Spider-Man
Marvel's The Avengers
Cloud Atlas
The Impossible

Best Sound Editing/Mixing
Marvel's The Avengers
Django Unchained
Premium Rush

Best Original Score
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Cloud Atlas
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Impossible

Best Original Song
"Everybody Needs a Best Friend" - "Ted"
"Safe and Sound" - "The Hunger Games"
"Skyfall" - "Skyfall"
"Strange Love" - "Frankenweenie"
"Suddenly" - "Les Miserables"

Best 3D
Finding Nemo 3D
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Rise of the Guardians
Titanic 3D

Best Cameo
Bill Hader - "Men in Black 3"
Sam J. Jones - "Ted"
Stan Lee - "Marvel's The Avengers"
Liam Neeson - "The Dark Knight Rises"
Uggie the Dog - "The Campaign"

Actor of the Year
Emily Blunt - "Looper", "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen", "Your Sister's Sister"
Bradley Cooper - "Silver Linings Playbook", "The Words"
Bryan Cranston - "Argo", "John Carter", "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted", "Rock of Ages", "Total Recall"
John Goodman - "Argo", "Flight", "ParaNorman", "Trouble with the Curve"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - "The Dark Knight Rises", "Lincoln", "Looper", "Premium Rush"

The LCJ Movie Awards are Coming! Movie Review

This Sunday at 8pmET, I will be announcing the winners of the major categories for THE 2013 LCJ MOVIE AWARDS on Twitter (@LCJReviews). Then at 8:30pm all the nominees and winners will be posted on the site. Here are some hints of what's to come:

- 8 of the 10 Best Picture nominees are up for Academy Awards

- 4 of the 5 Best Animated Feature noms are up for the Oscar

- 4 of the 5 Best Director nominees did NOT receive Oscar nominations

- There are some big snubs in the acting categories, including stars from "Silver Linings Playbook", "Django Unchained" and "The Master"

- Two actors who appeared in the same movie in 2012 are nominated in the same category, but for different films

- A new category is called "Actor of the Year". In order to qualify, an actor or actress had to be in at least two films from 2012 and were consistently good in all their films. They also could not have been nominated in the four acting categories.

"Argo" is the clear favorite to win the Best Picture and it was my favorite film of the year. But the winner for the best studio marketing campaign for this awards season, by far, is "Lincoln".

As a first year member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association I had no idea what to expect as far as receiving movie screeners and other "goodies" from the studios. I must say, as the season winds-down, that it has been overwhelming. I've gotten over 100 films on DVD, dozens of scripts, soundtrack CDs, and other very cool items. And practically all of the best extras are from "Lincoln": coffee table books, numbered artwork, making-of DVD, even a Mary Todd Lincoln cookbook. DreamWorks has spared no expense in publicizing and celebrating this special film.

And now they've taken thing even futher, with the announcement that every High School and Middle School in the country will be sent a copy of the "Lincoln" DVD when it is released. This is part of a campaign, "Stand Tall: Live Like Lincoln", kicked-off this week in conjunction with Abe's birthday. Director Steven Spielberg is excited to have millions of students see the film:

"As more and more people began to see the film, we received letters from teachers asking if it could be available in their classrooms. We realized that the educational value that "Lincoln" could have was not only for the adult audience - who have studied his lfe in history books - but for the young students in the classroom as well."

The DVD package each school will receive includes an Educator's Guide to help teachers engage in discussions and a complete lesson plan relating to the signifcance of Abraham Lincoln's leadership and the importance of that period in our nations' history.

Congratulations to Participant Media, DreamWorks Pictures, Fox/Newscorp and Disney In-Home for this effort. I've already seen "Lincoln" twice, but will be more than happy to host the screening at my school when our copy arrives.

More News...NOW Movie Review

What a week it's been for the entertainment industry. More of the top headlines:

"You're returning to the big screen, Mr. Grinch". Universal and Illumination Entertainment (the studio behind "Despicable Me" and 2012's smash hit "The Lorax") are developing an animated remake of another Dr. Seuss classic - "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" Of course, Jim Carrey starred in the 2000 live-action version (which earned him a Golden Globe nomination). Just as I felt when Universal announced an animated adaptation of "The Cat in the Hat", I don't think this new "Grinch" necessary.

Another surprise: the revival of a franchise that I thought (along with everyone else) was over: "Night at the Museum 3" is set to be released on Christmas Day 2014. Ben Stiller will return, along with director Shawn Levy, who helmed the first two films in the series. Interesting that it'll be five and a half years since "Battle of the Smithsonian" when "NATM 3" opens. That exact gap length has worked for some series (2011's "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" crushed 06's "M:I3" at the box office). And we'll find out this week how "A Good Day to Die Hard" does...just over five and a half years after the somewhat successful "Live Free or Die Hard".

And speaking of movies opening next week, "Escape From Planet Earth" will no longer come out on Thursday the 14th, but a day later on Friday the 15th. The Weinstein Company must've finally realized that Valentine's Day is not a school holiday and kids don't begin President's Week vacations until Friday.

The Week in News Movie Review

Some big news from a busy week:

Following DreamWorks Animation's pushing back of "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" to March 2014 and cancellation of "Me and My Shadow", the comedy "Last Vegas" has moved into "Sherman"'s original spot: November 1, 2013. "Vegas" has an all-star cast, including Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Robert De Niro. "Vegas" was originally set to open on a crowded December 20th along with "Anchorman 2", "Saving Mr. Banks" and "Monuments Men. Now its only competition will be the sci-fi film, "Ender's Game".

All four of last year's Acting category Oscar winners: Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady"), Jean Dujardin ("The Artist"), Octavia Spencer ("The Help"), and Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") will present at this year's Academy Awards. They'll now be joined by The Avengers! More specifically: Robert Downey, Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jeremy Renner.

And finally, "The Force" will definitely be with all of us: Along with the next three "Star Wars" installments from Disney (the first directed by J.J. Abrams), there will also be several spin-off character films. As of now, Yoda, Han Solo and Boba Fett films are all in the works.

Oh, and beginning in August there will no longer be regular mail delivery. Crazy.

2013 Super Bowl Ads Movie Review


It's Super Bowl Sunday! That means three things: The Big Game, The Halftime Show, and the Commericals. Studios love to spend millions advertising the most anticipated films to come over the next several months.

Tonight, we're expected to see ads from:

"Snitch" (Feb. 22), "Oz: The Great and Powerful" (Mar. 8), "Iron Man 3" (May 3), "Star Trek Into Darkness" (May 17), "Fast & Furious 6" (May 24), "World War Z" (June 21), and "The Lone Ranger" (July 3).

Interestingly enough, last year, Paramount had a Super Bowl teaser for "G.I. Joe: Retaliation", which was then supposed to open on June 29, 2012. Then, of course, it was pushed to this March (the 29th) because the studio wanted a 3D post conversion. It'd be great if there was another ad tonight, but I think Paramount's confident enough in "IM3", "Trek", and "WWZ". However, "Z" was also delayed from a Christmas release to June.

So, what are my predictions for the game:

It's going to be a Dark Knight in New Orleans. While the Eagles had a Silver Linings Playbook, this season they were Les Miserables.

It's Brother vs. Brother. While it's been an Unexpected Journey for the both of them, neither one really has Amour of a chance than the other.

Will Beyonce become The Master of the halftime show with a Pitch Perfect performance, or Taken 2 much time away from the game?

Argo with the 49ers over the Ravens. Here Comes the Score: 27-24. And the game will end at approx. Nine Dark Thirty.

Disney-Mania! Movie Review

Normally a week doesn't go by where we don't get some intersting Disney news, but the hot topic involving Mickey and Co. these days is Disneyland.

ABC's ordering of a TV pilot loosely based on a Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride is an interersting one. According to Variety “plotline involves a 19th century New York doctor and his family who are given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relocate to a frontier mining town run by a powerful but mysterious tycoon. Soon, they quickly realize that not everything in Big Thunder is as it seems.”

Doesn't sound as exciting as the ride, which happens to be my favorite on all the Disneyland/Disney World attractions. Producers know the title will attract people, but the show will have to be interesting and exciting to keep them around (if it even makes it to the network at all).

On the movie front, Disney's decision to change the title of their Dec. 2014 Sci-Fi release previously known as "1952" to "Tomorrowland" is making more and more people believe that the Brad Bird-directed film will be about Walt Disney's creation of Disneyland. Bird is also producing and co-writing the script with Damon Lindelof. So far very little is know about the super-secret project, except that George Clooney will star. With a December release you know this one is already being planned as an awards contender.

In the meantime, we only have to wait until this December to see Tom Hanks play Walt Disney in "Saving Mr. Banks". This movie, we know, is the story of the making of "Mary Poppins". Hanks isn't part of this awards season due to the good but underwhelming "Cloud Atlas". Expect that to change next year.

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