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Not as Many Box Office Fireworks Movie Review

The 4th of July weekend box office was down significantly from last year. And while many analysts are surprised by the poor results over the holiday, I predicted that "Tammy", "Deliver Us from Evil", and "Earth to Echo" would all struggle, mostly because they aren't designed to be Independence Day blockbusters.

Last year, "Despicable Me 2" crushed the 4th with an $83.5 million 3-Day and $143 million 5-Day weekend. "The Lone Ranger", which Disney expected to be a smash-hit with star Johnny Depp and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, opened under $30M Fri-Sun with $48M total from Wed-Sun. At the time considered an instant bomb, it actually performed better than any of the trio of '14 July 4th releases.

"Transformers: Age of Extinction" (a traditional 4th release) won the holiday in its second week (though it dropped 64%). Finishing second - "Tammy". The Melissa McCarthy comedy, which she co-wrote with director/husband Ben Falcone, made $32.9 million in its first five days. That's less than McCarthy's previous two leading role comedies ("Identity Thief" and "The Heat") made in their first three days. Largely poor reviews likely played a role. But considering the budget for "Tammy" was only $20 million, the film's already profitable even though not a financial smash hit.

Horror movies normally open strong ($20-$25M+), but "Deliver Us from Evil", starring Eric Bana, only managed to earn $15 million. A poor marketing strategy could be to blame, or maybe horror fans are waiting two weeks for the sequel "The Purge: Anarchy".

And "Earth to Echo", the awful "E.T." knock-off from Relativity Media, managed a 5-Day total of just $13.5 million. Surprisingly mixed reviews can't be the cause, nor the family audience competition ("How to Train Your Dragon 2" still dropped 34%). Maybe the general public could sense what anyone who went found out: this is a terrible film. Looking ahead, Disney's animated sequel "Planes: Fire & Rescue", opening in less than two weeks, could make as much as $45 million out of the gate.

Next year, another "Terminator" reboot and Channing Tatum's "Magic Mike 2" will be the big 4th of July 2015 releases, and "Ted 2" will be in its second week. It should feel like old times at the box office.

Celebrating the Fourth Movie Review

DUSTY CROPHOPPER AND I WANT TO WISH ALL OF YOU AN INCREDIBLE FOURTH OF JULY WEEKEND!

The Best of 2014...So Far Movie Review

We're six months into the year and there have already been several excellent films. Here are the 10 that receive my highest marks from the First Half of 2014:

1. "Locke"
Tom Hardy gives a nomination-worthy performance in writer/director Steven Knight's moving and effective psychological drama. The premise couldn't be simpler: a man driving his car, talking to a variety of people on the phone, for 90 minutes. The result is a sophisticated, suspenseful and multi-layered film with impeccable cinematography and pacing.

2. "Edge of Tomorrow"
Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give some of the best performances of their careers in this sci-fi action version of "Groundhog Day". With the smartest script of the year, great plot swerves, and the perfect mix of humor, drama and top-notch FX, it's a must-see, maybe even twice.

3. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
The best Marvel Studios superhero blockbuster to date. Chris Evans returns as 'The Star Spangled Man with a Plan', alongside Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. Fine supporting work from Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, and Samuel L. Jackson.

4. "The LEGO Movie"
A pure rush of fun from start to finish. Terrific ensemble voice cast includes Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Morgan Freeman. A wildly inventive, groundbreaking story that's not afraid to take risks. The leader at the halfway point in the race for best animated film of the year.

5. "Heaven is for Real"
Based on the best-selling book and inspiring true story, Greg Kinnear is excellent as a pastor, loving husband and father of a little boy who tells him that during surgery he went to Heaven. Bold, heartwarming and heartbreaking.

6. "How to Train Your Dragon 2"
This sequel to DreamWorks Animation's 2010 surprise hit is darker and more action-packed than the original. The visuals are extraordinary, with a true family dynamic at the core of an inspired script. Also a lock for Best Animated Feature consideration.

7. "Muppets Most Wanted"
Kermit & the gang return in this delightful musical comedy caper, alongside Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey and "Modern Family" star Ty Burrell. While it disappointed at the box office, it's even funnier than the 2011 reboot.

8. "The Fault in Our Stars"
Shailene Woodley ("Divergent") gives the best female lead performance of 2014 so far in this adaptation of the best-selling John Green novel about two teenage cancer patients who become involved in an unlikely romance. Smartly takes its time unraveling a highly emotional, lovely story.

9. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
This action reboot based on the books by late author Tom Clancy is a whole lot of fun. Chris Pine ("Star Trek"), Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner join co-star and director Kenneth Branagh in one of the best January releases in recent years.

10. "22 Jump Street"
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum reprise their roles in this buddy-cop comedy based on the 80's TV series. Not only consistently funny, but wildly clever in the ways it pokes fun at itself and all Hollywood sequels.

LCJ's First Half of 2014 Movie Awards Movie Review

Best Picture
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
"Edge of Tomorrow"
"Heaven is for Real"
"The LEGO Movie"
"Locke"

Best Director
Josh Boone - "The Fault in Our Stars"
Steven Knight - "Locke"
Doug Liman - "Edge of Tomorrow"
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - "The LEGO Movie"
Randall Wallace - "Heaven is for Real"

Best Actor
Russell Crowe - "Noah"
Tom Cruise - "Edge of Tomorrow"
Tom Hardy - "Locke"
Greg Kinnear - "Heaven is for Real"
John Lloyd Young - "Jersey Boys"

Best Actress
Emily Blunt - "Edge of Tomorrow"
Angelina Jolie - "Maleficent"
Vanessa Paradis - "Fading Gigolo"
Emma Stone - "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
Shailene Woodley - "The Fault in Our Stars"

Best Supporting Actor
Ty Burrell - "Muppets Most Wanted"
Bryan Cranston - "Godzilla"
Ice Cube - "22 Jump Street"
Bill Paxton - "Edge of Tomorrow"
Christopher Walken - "Jersey Boys"

Best Supporting Actress
Cate Blanchett - "The Monuments Men"
Ellen Burstyn - "Draft Day"
Jessica Lange - "In Secret"
Jennifer Lawrence - "X-Men: Days of Future Past"
Emma Watson - "Noah"

Best Ensemble
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
"Heaven is for Real"
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
"Noah"

Best Cameo
Celine Dion - "Muppets Most Wanted"
Paul Giamatti - "The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
Frank Langella - "Muppets Most Wanted"
Stan Lee - "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
Seth Rogen - "22 Jump Street"

Best Action Film
"The Amazing Spider-Man 2"
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
"Edge of Tomorrow"
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
"Maleficent"

Best Animated Feature
"How to Train Your Dragon 2"
"Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return"
"The LEGO Movie"

Best Comedy
"22 Jump Street"
"Muppets Most Wanted"
"Ride Along"

Best Documentary Feature
"Bears"

Best Drama
"The Fault in Our Stars"
"Heaven is for Real"
"Locke"
"Jersey Boys"
"Noah"

Best Family Film
"Heaven is for Real"
"Maleficent"
"Muppets Most Wanted"

The Roger Ebert Award for Best Screenplay
"Edge of Tomorrow"

Costume Design
"X-Men: Days of Future Past"

Makeup and Hairstyling
"Maleficent"

Production Design
"Non-Stop"

Cinematography
"How to Train Your Dragon 2"

Visual Effects
"Godzilla"

Original Score
"Million Dollar Arm"

3D
"Transformers: Age of Extinction"

Original Song
"We're Doing a Sequel" - "Muppets Most Wanted"

Jumping Around July Movie Review

July 2014 could go down as one of the wackiest scheduling months in Movie History.

The extended 4th of July weekend, which starts on Wednesday the 2nd, features a uniquely weak crop of new releases, because none are designed as blockbusters. The Melissa McCarthy comedy "Tammy", Relativity Media's "E.T." knock-off "Earth to Echo", and the Eric Bana horror film "Deliver Us From Evil", should each do well for their respective audiences, but don't expect them to be box office juggernauts like recent Independence Day openers "Despicable Me 2", "The Amazing Spider-Man", "Hancock" and "Transformers".

Warner Bros. originally planned to release the sci-fi action/adventure "Jupiter Ascending" on July 25. Last December, the release date was moved-up one week to July 18. But just a few weeks ago, WB made a bold decision to move the Channing Tatum/Mila Kunis movie to February 6, 2015, putting-it up against the next "SpongeBob" movie...at least for now. The reason given for this seven-month delay: The Wachowskis ("The Matrix") couldn't get all the special effects completed in time.

This began a feeding frenzy for spots and dates among the other studios with big movies set for July and August. Universal Pictures decided to move the Scarlett Johansson/Morgan Freeman action/thriller "Lucy" up two weeks from August 8 to a then still crowded July 25, sticking it in between two of their other films - horror sequel "The Purge: Anarchy" (original release date: June 20th; current release date: July 18) and the James Brown biopic "Get On Up" (out August 1). Meantime, "Step Up: All In" has switiched places with "Lucy", moving from July 25 to August 8.

The main competition for "Lucy" is now director Brett Ratner's version of "Hercules", starring Dwayne Johnson. However, just added to the July 25 lineup is Gabriel Iglesias' stand-up comedy tour documentary, "The Fluffy Movie". Open Road originally planned its release for July 11, which would have had it going up against "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (which 20th Century Fox isn't moving anywhere).

But wait - there's more! Sony/Columbia had their Cameron Diaz/Jason Segel comedy "Sex Tape" set for July 18, but decided to push it back to the 25th. But then, a few weeks later, they moved it back to the 18th. And Clarius Entertainment's romantic comedy "And So It Goes", starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, and directed by Rob Reiner, is now also in the July 18 line-up after vacating its July 11 spot. Even with all this switching, those two movies will likely be battling for 3rd place opening weekend behind "The Purge" and Disney's high-flying animated sequel "Planes: Fire and Rescue".

The result of all this movement means that "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" will be the only big movie opening July 11. It was going to dominate the box office anyway, but now will clearly be top banana not only that weekend but for the entire, crazy month.

Dean DeBlois, who co-directed the 2010 original "How to Train Your Dragon", flies solo with the blockbuster DreamWorks Animation sequel "How to Train Your Dragon 2". In this LCJ Interview, DeBlois discusses the aging of Hiccup and the others for Part 2, the inspirations for the story, screening the film at Cannes, a look ahead to "Dragon 3", and what the franchise has meant to his career.

It Was the Summer of '89 Movie Review

What a difference 25 years can make...or maybe not. Hollywood clearly likes to recycle, and this strategy has produced some huge franchises - many which have been reborn since their inceptions in 1989.

25 years ago this week, Tim Burton's big-screen version of "Batman" was released. Starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson as the original Joker, this was the highest-grossing film of '89 with $251 million. Adjusted for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo, that would be just over $500 million. Fast-forward to today: Zach Snyder is shooting Ben Affleck as Batman for "Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice", while Keaton is receiving early Awards Season buzz for his role in "Birdman" (out Oct. 17), a dark comedy about an actor best known for playing a movie superhero who's trying to make a comeback in a Broadway show. Two and a half decades later, both Keaton and Batman are back at it.

The second-biggest release of the Summer of '89 was "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", which, as it turned-out, wasn't Indy's last adventure after all. The character and star Harrison Ford returned with "The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" in '08, and rumors persist that a 5th "Indiana Jones" film could be in the works.

"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (an equally ironic title) was also a Summer release 25 years ago, and obviously, it wasn't the final voyage of the Starship Enterprise. There was one more movie from the series ("VI: The Undiscovered Country - '91), four from the "Next Generation" team and the two recent reboots, with a third in pre-production.

The sequel "Ghostbusters II" opened in June of 1989. A Quarter-Century of Junes later, speculation rages concerning the possibility of a "Ghostbusters III". The recent death of Harold Ramis, the genius behind the franchise, may have ended all hope. The Steve Martin comedy "Parenthood" also hit screens that Summer. The TV relationship drama, based on the film, remains a hit for NBC. And 25 years ago next month Disney re-released the animated classic "Peter Pan". As we speak, Warner Bros. is in production on a live-action "Pan" origin story, starring Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard.

1989 seems so long ago, but not when it comes to Hollywood, where everything old is eventually new again.

The Real Reason to Make Movies Movie Review

Not every film is specifically designed to gross $250 million or receive numerous nominations (aka "Awards Bait"). Some directors simply want to make movies for the best possible reason: to tell interesting stories in interesting ways. This seems to be the case with Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys".

From the trailer, and the fact that a four-time Oscar winner is behind it, you'd think Warner Bros. would have planned to release this biopic on the creation of the legendary musical group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons close to or during Awards Season. Maybe that was never the intention. Maybe, after seeing what they had, the studio decided the film just isn't very good. But, if that was the case, why schedule its release for the middle of a crowded Summer? It's hard to believe that WB would want to bury "Jersey Boys". That being said, it's likely going to open in fourth place and will be lucky if it makes $50 million domestically (the R-rating for language hurts). It appears to me that Eastwood wanted to create this film, his way, regardless of whether it receives critical praise and awards season recognition, or is forgotten by the end of the year.

Every year there are films that fall into the category of being "different". Because of their release date, lack of star power, quirky storyline, no studio support or for no reason at all they simply fall through the cracks.

The indie "Locke", released at the end of April, should earn star Tom Hardy Best Actor consideration. But even if Hardy and the movie are ignored (as the film has been at the box office) writer/director Steven Knight ("Eastern Promises") achieved his goal of proving you can make an exceptional film with only one character, who spends the entire 90-minutes driving his car and talking on the phone.

"Edge of Tomorrow" is struggling at the box office, but director Doug Liman ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith") deserves a lot of credit for crafting an extremely smart and sophisticated action film with humor and heart (and getting great performances from Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt). Last year's "The Invisible Woman", Ralph Fiennes' previously untold the story of Charles Dickens' "secret relationship", was intriguing and memorable. It was practically ignored by audiences and only acknowledged by Hollywood with a Costume Design Oscar nomination. And Richard Linklater's 2012 "Bernie" showcased Jack Black in a top career form, in a true story of a funeral director with a deadly secret. Offbeat, funny, dramatic and fascinating, the film got Black a Golden Globe nod, but little else.

Harrison Ford, in a 2011 interview in AARP Magazine following the release of the terrific but box office flop "Morning Glory", said, "I just want to make good movies that people want to go see. I hate making movies that people don't go to." The problem is, sometimes the films most worth seeing, the quirky ones with unique scripts, the ones that stick with you long after the credits end, are the ones mainstream audiences ignore.

I guess that's one of the most rewarding things about being a critic. We get to see those films and then get to try to convince everyone else to see them, too.

Soak Up A Whole New SquarePants Movie Review

In 2011, Tom Kenny, the voice of Nickelodeon animated icon SpongeBob SquarePants, first revealed to me that a sequel to 2004's big-screen "SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" was potentially in the works, saying "I'm hearing it being talked about in a way I haven't before". Paramount finally confirmed SBSP2 six months later. Since then, rumors have been swirling of a plot, title and style of animation. Now the latter two of those have been revealed in a fascinating new poster for "The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water".

By the looks of it, SBSP2 will not be using hand-drawn animation (like the series and original film) or the stop-motion style that was used for the holiday special "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!", but rather an interesting form of CGI. That may disappoint or creep-out some diehard fans but I'm staying very optimistic. The poster also comes with the clever tagline, "He's Leaving His World Behind", with a very real-looking crab grabbing the back of SpongeBob's pants.

We know there's going to be a mix of CGI and live-action in "Sponge Out of Water". Last October, it was announced that Antonio Banderas was playing a pirate in the movie and that he had filmed his scenes. And there is both an animation director, Paul Tibbit (who has been with the TV show for years), and a live-action director, Mike Mitchell ("Shrek Forever After").

For now, Paramount is only teasing us with the image on the film's UK website and official Facebook page, but I sense a trailer coming soon, possibly before "Transformers: Age of Extinction" at the end of this month. Already, "Sponge Out of Water" is a lock for my list of Most Anticipated Movies of 2015, and the good news is we won't have to wait long, as the film will be released on 2/6/15.

The Stars are Aligning Movie Review

A month ago I wouldn't have predicted that the romantic drama, "The Fault in Our Stars", would not only win, but dominate, the first weekend of June at the Box Office. Based on a 2012 novel about two teenagers who form an unlikely friendship and end-up falling in love, "Fault" easily beat competitors "Maleficent" and the Tom Cruise/Emily Blunt sci-fi action film "Edge of Tomorrow".

So how did "TFIOS" do it? The book was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and has had a massive following since released. The tween/teen audience is huge and come out in droves when a popular book hits the screen. In March, the first film installment of the franchise book series, "Divergent", opened to $54.6 million.

But the biggest reason could be the major thing that both films have in common: star Shailene Woodley. The world first discovered her on ABC Family's "The Secret Life of the American Teenager", which just wrapped-up last year. In 2011, Woodley received a Golden Globe nomination (and deserved an Oscar nod) for her performance alongside George Clooney in "The Descendants". And last August, she received rave reviews for her work in the indie dramedy, "The Spectacular Now".

Now Woodley has opened two big #1 movies in less than three months. She has a very likeable and believable on-screen presence and appears to be destined for a great film career. In fact, she's already receiving Best Actress buzz for her performance in "Stars". Currently, only "Divergent" sequels are in her pipeline (though that should change very soon). The true test will be if Woodley can open a film that doesn't have the built-in audience that comes with a popular book, and I think she can.

What Hugh Should Do Movie Review

Following an excellent, three-year stint by Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman is back as host of this Sunday's Tony Awards. With Harris busy on Broadway with "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (for which he is up for Lead Actor in a Musical), bringing back Jackman, who hosted from 2003-2005, was the smart move. But can Jackman live-up to the high expectations?

Here's my wish-list of highlights I'm hoping we're all talking about following the show:

1) The Valjeans - Jackman was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his incredible performance in "Les Miserables". Since he played Jean Valjean, and Ramin Karimloo is up for Lead Actor in a Musical as Jean Valjean in the new production of "Les Miz", a duet is practically inevitable.

2) Duel with Neil - Even though Harris won't open with a spectacular production number like he pulled-off last year, he and Jackman did duet (in "Who's a better host?" fashion) in 2011. Another one of those would be pretty great.

3) Incorporate the Stars - While Denzel Washington, Daniel Radcliffe and some other A-listers were surprisingly left-off the ballot, a few bits with the other big celebs who are nominated could be fantastic, including with the always entertaining Bryan Cranston and "Frozen" phenomenon Idina Menzel. Think he'll try to pronounce her name?

It'll be difficult for Jackman to top last year's show, as well as his own work hosting the Oscars in 2009, but there's no doubt he will do a tremendous job (as long as his claws don't get in the way).

Edgar Wright, who directed British comedy duo Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in a trio of hits: "Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End", was all set to take on the epic Marvel superhero blockbuster "Ant-Man", starring Paul Rudd. But a week ago, Wright left the project due to some major creative differences.

Then, for about 12 hours, Adam McKay, best-known for working with Rudd on the "Anchorman" movies, and long-time Will Ferrell collaboration partner ("The Other Guys", "Step Brothers" "Talladega Nights") was in negotiations to direct the action film. But now reports say McKay has decided to drop out.

So what's scaring directors away from making a Marvel superhero movie that will likely be a huge success? Does the "Ant-Man" script contain elements that these guys couldn't agree with (slapstick, over-the-top comedy that mixes with the typical superhero formula)? The premise is rather goofy - a guy shrinking down to the size of an ant. The potential for amazing visuals is there, but it could also be a complete disaster ("Honey, I Shrunk the Superhero").

For now, Disney is keeping its July 17, 2015 relase date for "Ant-Man", but it's tough to imagine the film can be shot and edited in little more than a year, even if another director is locked-in very soon. Seems this "small" movie is becoming a rather large problem.

Is 90 the New 100? Movie Review

2014 has been a jam-packed year of blockbusters, with the top two films to date, "The LEGO Movie" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", each grossing more than $250 million. But we're now five months in and not a single release has had an opening weekend of over $100 million. "X-Men: Days of Future Past", "The Amazing Spider-Man 2", "Godzilla", and "Capt. America" all debuted between $91 and $95 million. It's the first time there hasn't been a $100M+ opening in January-May since 2011, a year when overall box office was down, and no film was able to reach the $400M mark (last year, we had three).

Why hasn't anyone been able to get to $100M so far this year? There are plenty of possible reasons. Here are my Top 3:

1) Too many Spring/early Summer blockbusters. With nearly a big-budget superhero/action coming-out nearly every week fans have been skipping some and waiting for others, so the ticket sales are being spread-out over more movies.

2) Fewer people are spending the extra dollars to see these movies in 3D and IMAX, bringing the average ticket price and total grosses down.

3) The films just haven't been good enough.

This streak of no $100M films in 2014 will likely come to an end in just a few weeks, when "How to Train Your Dragon 2" opens nationwide. The DreamWorks sequel is one of the favorites right now to win the 2014 Box Office title, but still may not get to $400M. If that's the case it could mean that 2014 will end-up being an overall down year for the industry.

Pigging-Out Movie Review

Geico is one of the newest corporate sponsors of Regal Cinemas and AMC movie theaters nationwide, and the "First Look" pre-show which runs prior to the trailers. They've produced a few movie theater-themed "Silence Your Cell Phones" ads featuring the Gecko talking with the "Let's All Go to the Lobby" soda and popcorn characters, and the "Hump Day" Camel getting pumped for "Movie Day".

But their latest spot is their best work by far. Short, quirky Maxwell the Pig, who we've seen on TV getting pulled-over by the police and wearing a blanket at a football game, is now working as a ticket-taker at a movie theater. And instead of simply welcoming people, ripping their tickets and telling them where to go, he intentionally gives away the crucial twists in the film they're about to see.

It's an old gag, but it's executed so well and Maxwell's comments are so priceless, that the feature is hysterical. Normally, especially if you go to the movies as often as I do, it doesn't take long to get tired of seeing the same commercials over and over again. But I have a feeling I'll be laughing out loud to Maxwell all the way to the end of Summer.

Out of the Can...to a hit at Cannes Movie Review

One of the most highly-anticipated films of the upcoming Awards Season is the true-life wrestling drama "Foxcatcher" (out Nov. 14). Directed by Bennett Miller ("Capote", "Moneyball"), "Foxcatcher" was supposed to be released last December (for 2013 awards consideration), but Sony Pictures Classics decided to hold it back an entire year.

Speculation was that Miller wasn't finished with the film in time for it's original release date, though buzz was still very strong. Well, "Foxcatcher" was screened this week at the Cannes Film Festival and the reviews have been nothing short of spectacular, particularly for star Steve Carell, who plays Olympic wrestling coach John du Pont. Last fall, based on all the buzz and a 60-second teaser trailer, I predicted that Carell would score an Oscar nomination for his work. Now, with the reaction coming from Cannes, it's time to officially repeat that prediction. If Carell's performance is as raw and transformative as we're hearing - he's an absolute lock.

The debate is whether Carell be up for the Lead or Supporting Actor category? Even though Carell receives top-billing, Channing Tatum gets the most screen time in the movie. Will SPC play it safe and go the lead route or take a bit of a risk and push Carell for a dominating supporting performance? That decision likely won't be made until at least mid-November.

On the other side of the Cannes coin is "Grace of Monaco". The Grace Kelly biopic starring Nicole Kidman was also shelved for a year (by The Weinstein Co.), but unfortunately for a different and not surprising reason: Terrible buzz and reviews from Cannes confirming that it simply isn't very good.

Also screened at the festival, but not in competition: "How to Train Your Dragon 2". Some think the DreamWorks animated adventure will be the highest-grossing movie of the Summer. However, can it be a better film than the wildly impressive 2010 original? If it truly is "The mother of all animated sequels", as the Variety review from Cannes claims, I'll be both stunned and over-joyed.

 

Live From New York Movie Review

In recent years, "Saturday Night Live" has become must-watch TV more for the celebrity hosts and guests than the regular cast. And that was true again this season (which has just come to a close).

Here are the five best "SNL" appearances of the year:

5) Bring on Babs - Legendary newswoman Barbara Walters just retired after more than a half century in the business. There have been several actresses who have played Walters over the years on SNL. But before saying goodbye on "The View", the real Walters stopped by Weekend Update to deliver a few good lines and poke fun at what she's done her entire career: ask odd questions, making people cry, and even her trademark voice.

4) Let Louis do His Thing - Host Louis C.K.'s monologue didn't consist of a typical over-the-top musical number or corny sketch using cast members in costume in the audience. Instead, he did 12-minutes of hilarious, clean stand-up comedy.

3) The Host with the Most - Anna Kendrick, the Oscar-nominated star of "Pitch Perfect" and "Up in the Air", shined during hosting debut in several clever skits, using both her acting and impressive vocal abilities.

2) Survey Says: Hysterical! - The best regular sketch on the show this season, by far, was Celebrity Family Feud. Veteran SNL member Kenan Thompson does a spot-on Steve Harvey, delivering countless classic one-liners. Standout editions include the season's Christmas episode, with Jimmy Fallon playing Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory" and musical guest and friend Justin Timberlake as Fallon and, a few weeks ago, Andrew Garfield playing the self-eccentric Timberlake. Both get A's.

1) A Wes Anderson Tribute - When Edward Norton hosted in October, he took part in a video sketch teasing a new movie from quirky indie director Wes Anderson. The result was simply genius. From the situations and music, to the set-design and costumes, the writers clearly did their homework for the parody, which played off such Anderson films, as "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox". Norton did a dead-on Owen Wilson (who's appeared in practically all of Anderson's films), and Alec Baldwin was the perfect narrator, delivering priceless lines, such as - "The New York Times calls it, 'You Had Me at Wes Anderson.'"

The Titan of Twitter Movie Review

One of the best silver screen matches of the 21st Century is, without a doubt, Robert Downey, Jr. and Tony Stark/Iron Man. Now luck may have struck twice for the two-time Oscar nominee, who only recently joined Twitter but it's proving to be a perfect fit, as he's quickly becoming one of the most popular celebs on the social media giant. Here's 5 reasons why @robertdowneyjr is a must follow:

1) The Bio: "You know who I am." - Classically sarcastic

2) The Photo: Proudly holding his 2014 Kids Choice Awards blimp for Favorite Male Buttkicker

3) Those other photos: Downey, Jr. has shared some exclusive, incredible images from the set of "Avengers: Age of Ultron". Sure, they're not of him or the others in costume (quite yet), but seeing the entire cast and crew, including director Joss Whedon, having lunch is pretty cool.

4) The promotional plugs: On opening day of his new comedy "Chef", co-starring and directed by buddy Jon Favreau, Downey wrote, "Speaking of awesome movies that open today..."

5) Appreciating his fans: A mother asked RDJ if he would help her daughter, who was being made fun of at school for believing in superheroes. He replied, "Don't worry, Keira, I believe in them too!" Now that's a true superhero!

Downey, Jr. "only" has 1.64 million Twitter followers (as of this writing). Expect that number to grow a little between now and "Ultron"s release next May.

 

Yabba Dabba Comeback Movie Review

"The Flintstones" are coming back to the big screen, but don't look for John Goodman in a loincloth. This new adventure of the "Modern Stone Age Family" will be a straight CGI animated film from Warner Bros. And you'll never guess who's producing it: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, best known for their edgy, adult (and often) very funny comedies.

This is a return to the big screen for Fred, Barney & Co.: The 1994 live-action film with Goodman and Rosie O'Donnell was a huge success, while the 2000 sequel, "Viva Rock Vegas" bombed. Recently, "Ted" and "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane tried to revive the franchise with an animated series, but the pilot script was underwhelming for FOX and the project was shelved.

WB recently announced they're officially getting back in the animation game. Their division will produce two new films: one in 2017 and another in 2018. This trip to Bedrock should fill one of those spots.

Nice to see this new trend of classic cartoons getting pure animated updates - "Mr. Peabody and Sherman", Blue Sky's "Peanuts" and now "The Flintstones." This is a welcome change from the part animated/part live-action reboots we've been bombarded with in recent years.

Swinging Spidey to New Heights Movie Review

"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" marks the start of the Summer 2014 Movie Season. One of the strengths of the superhero sequel are the incredible visuals FX. In this LCJ Interview, Academy-Award nominated Animation Supervisor David Schaub discusses the challenges of creating a realistic Spidey using CGI, electrifying Jamie Foxx's villain "Electro", how Times Square was destroyed, and potential villains for "TASM3".

Murphy back on

Few comic actors in the history of Hollywood have experienced more of a rollercoaster career than Eddie Murphy. He burst onto the scene in the early 80s with mega-hits "48 Hrs", "Trading Places" and "Beverly Hills Cop" (while starring on SNL). His success dipped a bit in the 90s but he rebounded in the next decade, highlighted by a Best Supporting Actor Oscar-nomination performance for "Dreamgirls" (losing in an upset to Alan Arkin - "Little Miss Sunshine"). Many still believe the release of "Norbit" around the same time swayed Academy members "not" to vote for him.

The animated sequels "Shrek the Third" and "Shrek Forever After" kept him in the spotlight, but his live-action comedies - "Meet Dave", "Imagine That" and "A Thousand Words" were all busts. And the solid 2011 ensemble comedy "Tower Heist" didn't quite connect with audiences, either.

For "Tower Heist" Murphy teamed-up with "Rush Hour" and "Hercules" director Brett Ratner. And the two were all set to reunite for the 2012 Oscars - Murphy as host and Ratner as producer, but later both backed-out due to some controversies.

But now it appears that Murphy and Ratner will be getting back together, and will be joined by legendary Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, for another "Beverly Hills Cop", set for release on March 25, 2016. This announcement comes after a long struggle to reboot the popular 80s & 90s franchise (including a TV pilot which was passed on by several networks last year). This new "Beverly Hills Cop" will come 22 years after the release of "BHC III".

Clearly this is "where he wants to be" in his career. Over the holidays, Murphy told Ellen DeGeneres on her show, "I don't want to do anything else that sucks ever again" - a humorous and brutally honest statement. Hopefully, this could be the start of comeback we've been waiting for.

Eddie Murphy Fun Fact: Did you know he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA in 2002 as the voice of Donkey in the original "Shrek"? The day The Academy nominates a voice performance in an acting category will be historic to "say the least".


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