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Yet Another

A third "Night at the Museum" has been in the works for a few years, and the first trailer of "Secret of the Tomb" has been finally released. The 2006 original was a delightful surprise, while the 2009 sequel, "Battle of the Smithsonian", lacked the previous film's charm. For the threequel, the main cast is back, including stars Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson and Ricky Gervais, as well as director Shawn Levy.

This plot once again takes the characters away from NYC (this time to London) but brings back the original's theme of the statues and displays coming to life at night. Levy revealed in a piece for Entertainment Weekly earlier this year that the three stingy old men, Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs and the late Mickey Rooney (who died in April) also make return appearances. Levy was honored to have filmed Rooney's final on-screen performance.

Joining the ensemble are Sir Ben Kingsley and Rebel Wilson. My expectations are low for their characters providing big laughs, but the trailer does include a few funny one-liners and promising situations. This installment could wrap-up the elongated franchise (which very easily could've ended after the original) in a nice way.

But in order to achieve the box office success of the previous two, "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" is going to have to defeat another movie going after the same, family audience. "Annie", starring Quvenzhane Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz, opens the same day as "NATM3" - December 19th. And two days earlier, the final "Hobbit" - "The Battle of the Five Armies", will hit theaters. I hope the lights haven't burned out just yet on the "NATM" series, but convincing audiences to return to the Natural History Museum one more time is going to be tough. Good news for 20th Century Fox: the studio has nearly five months to generate some buzz and momentum with a rigorous marketing campaign. Bad news: Sony began their campaign for "Annie" over five months ago.

I'd Rather Not Solve Movie Review

I've been a game show fan my entire life. I've been able to meet some of the most popular game show hosts on TV, and if an opportunity were to come along in the future, I would love to host one myself. Being an avid watcher, I've picked-up on some things and developed some opinions and strategies. Here's some important (and possibly controversial) advice for you if you ever become for a contestant on "Wheel of Fortune" (which I attended a taping of in 2009):

After years of intense study and research, I believe that contestants should avoid solving the first toss-up puzzle. And here are my five reasons:

1. You only win $1000. The second toss-up is worth $2k and the third an even better $3k, so there's no reason to peak early.

2. Even if you lose every puzzle and keep hitting Bankrupt the entire show and end up with nothing you're guaranteed to win $1000. So winning the first toss-up actually gets you nothing.

3. If you do buzz-in but guess incorrectly, that failure could cause you to lose your focus kill your momentum for the rest of the game.

4. Unlike when you correctly solve the second and third toss-ups, you don't get to spin the wheel first when you get the first toss-up right.

5. What you do get to do is be the first contestant to talk with host Pat Sajak, sharing details of your life with Pat and the world. If you're not prepared for this (and who is), it could be nerve-wracking and hurt your performance on the rest of the show. It's much better to have some more time to think about what you're going to say while Pat's talking to the other contestants.

So, here's one case on a game show where winning could really be losing.

They're So Classic Movie Review

One of the perks of being on Summer vacation is that I get to catch-up on some classic films, many considered to be among the greatest in the history of cinema, that I've never had the time and/or opportunity to see. Here are the five I've screened thus far as part of the LCJ Personal Summer Film Festival 2014:

"Broadway Danny Rose" - Woody Allen's black-and-white tale of a theatrical manager on a one-day adventure with the girlfriend of his popular client is a sweet, old-fashioned comedy. Allen and Mia Farrow have terrific chemistry and the final few minutes are simply perfect.

"Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" - Considered to be one of the best comedies ever made, Stanley Kubrick's 1964 WWII farce was certainly daring and groundbreaking for its time. Peter Sellers is quite good in his multiple roles. It's not one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, but it's satisfying and engaging (and the Wes Anderson connection is undeniable).

"Moonstruck" - Cher won the 1987 Best Actress Oscar for her electric performance as an engaged widow who stumbles upon a man who could be the true love of her life (played by Nicolas Cage). Olympia Dukakis and a pre-"Frasier" John Mahoney are the supporting cast stand-outs in this charming, highly likeable romantic comedy.

"North by Northwest" - Director Alfred Hitchcock's complex and brilliant thriller involving a case of mistaken identity that quickly escalates into much more is spellbinding. Loads of twists and tension. Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint are incredibly natural together. Films such as this simply aren't made anymore. Hitchcock gold.

"The Silence of the Lambs" - Contrary to what the Academy thought, I still don't believe this deserved the 1991 Best Picture honor over "Beauty and the Beast". But Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster are fantastic, especially in their powerful and iconic scenes together. Suspenseful and gritty throughout.

Still on the Festival agenda: "Rain Man", "Apollo 13", "Kramer vs. Kramer", "Casablanca", "Jaws" and more. I need an "Endless Summer".

Analyzing  the Summer Box Office So Far Movie Review

The general belief is that the Summer 2014 Box Office is down significantly from previous years. And the numbers prove it. Back in April I wrote a blog predictinghow the big May releases would do. In it I pointed-out that while the May 2013 films grossed more than $1.4 billion domestically, the 2014 crop would have a slightly lower $1.3B total. Since nearly all the May movies have run their courses in theaters, the fact is that the 11 big movies that opened that month (including the indie comedy "Chef") will not even reach $1.2 billion.

The Biggest Losers from May include Seth MacFarlane's western comedy disaster "A Million Ways to Die in the West", which made only $42.7 million, or less than one-fifth of "Ted"'s domestic haul, as well as the animated flop "Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return", with a very poor $8.5 million. Adam Sandler's "Blended" also did much worse than his previous comedies, with just $45 million. Some could even argue that "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" should be in this category since it barely crossed the $200 million mark (I expected closer to $300M). And even "X-Men: Days of Future Past", while the second-biggest installment in the franchise, didn't wow with just over $230 million.

Technically, the only financial winner from May was Disney's "Maleficent". Released on the last weekend of the month, it's still one of the Top 10 movies in America. Whether it was the ruthless marketing campaign, the PG rating, or Angelina Jolie as the combination of a heroin and villain, a $230 million cume was far more than anyone, including The Mouse House itself, likely expected. The Runner-Up is "Neighbors", which on just an $18 million budget, ended-up with nearly $150M.

As far as the rest of the summer so far goes, "How to Train Your Dragon 2"'s performance is another disappointment for DreamWorks Animation, as $160 million is far from the $220M total the original "Dragon" made in 2010. Disney's "Planes: Fire & Rescue" will have a lot of work to do if it wants to match or beat the original's $90M total. And "Transformers: Age of Extinction", the only $100M open of 2014 to date, may still not outgross 2014's top two films, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (released in April) and "The LEGO Movie" (which opened in February).

On the bright side, "The Fault in Our Stars" is one of the summer darlings. The captivating romantic drama has raked-in more than $120M. And two films many predicted to be financial busts after their opening weekends, "Edge of Tomorrow" and "Tammy", are successfully chasing $100 million. However, even though "22 Jump Street"'s $180M+ is a huge accomplishment, way more the original, its triumph is being overshadowed by all the summer letdowns.

And with six weeks of the season remaining, it looks like only one movie could change the atmosphere: "Guardians of the Galaxy". The special IMAX 3D 17-minute preview of the film was a big success, and the buzz is ginormous. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it opens to more than $100M. The trailers and TV spots are funny, edgy, and action-packed. And Bradley Cooper's Rocket Raccoon is on the verge of becoming a superstar. Hopefully, this unlikely band of superheroes can not only save the day, but the Summer 2014 Box Office as well.

Plugging into

A new documentary examines the history of all things video games. From "Pac-Man" to "Call of Duty" and everything in between, "Video Games: The Movie" tackles the giant electronic studios, iconic games, and the ups and downs of the industry. In this LCJ Interview, writer/director/producer Jeremy Snead discusses how he got the film made, as well as the licensed games and Hollywood's relationship with video games.

Sports Awards Season is in Full Swing Movie Review

The World Cup has ended, NFL Training Camps are still a few weeks away, and baseball is in its Mid-Season break. So why not give out honors to all the hard-working athletes? One awards show has been doing this in mid-July for 20 years, but a new, direct competitor is looking to steal some of the spotlight.

The ESPY Awards, on ESPN Wednesday night, mix the sports and entertainment worlds together (even though they made a mistake by eliminating the Best Sports Movie category a few years ago). A-list celebrities are part of the extravaganza at LA's Nokia Theatre, paying tribute to some of the year's most successful athletes and teams. The host also gets to crack jokes about some of the most talked-about and controversial topics of the year (I'm sure Donald Sterling will be a hot one). Previous emcees have included Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Meyers, Rob Riggle, Jon Hamm, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Kimmel, and even Lance Armstrong. This year ESPN is stepping a little outside the box with rapper Drake. He's a major sports fan, but I'm not sure if he's got the charisma and talent to be a great host. My prediction is that, unlike his favorite beverage - Sprite - Drake will deliver a flat performance.

Then on Thursday night, the sports universe gets a little more family friendly. Even though Nickelodeon honors male and female athletes at their annual Kids Choice Awards in March, they've decided to start-up a Kids Choice Sports Awards. Former New York Giants player and current talk show host and analyst Michael Strahan will be master of ceremonies. Ratings for this show won't be as big as the ESPYs, but it should get the young demo, and with Pharrell Williams performing, some older viewers as well.

No doubt many top athletes and celebs will try make it to both events on back-to-back nights. It's similar to last January when all the nominated actors and directors had to deal with The Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, and SAG Awards in the same week. Except the sports stars are probably in better shape.

The Love of Roger's

"Life Itself" is a new, amazing documentary about the incredible film critic Roger Ebert, who revolutionized movie reviews and passed away last year. In this LCJ Interview, Roger's wife, Chaz Ebert, talks about her husband's impact on society, making this daring film, and the best movie theater experiences she had with the dynamic "Siskel & Ebert".

Guardians of a Seventh of the Galaxy Movie Review

Normally I'm not the biggest fan of extended preview clips (even most trailers give away too much of the movie). But when Disney/Marvel announced a special IMAX 3D First Look screening of "Guardians of the Galaxy", consisting of 17 minutes of never-before-seen footage, nearly one month before the August 1 release date, I knew I had to be there. Plus, all attendees would be getting a special, very cool, limited edition poster. How could anyone say no to that.

It turned out that the action started even before we got into the theater. Also waiting in line were many ticket-holders who thought that they were going to see the entire film, ALONG WITH 17 minutes of "bonus footage". Once they learned the truth several of them actually got out of line and went home. Here's what they missed: not only the free poster but a juicy chunk of what has the potential to be one of the best action movies of the year.

Director James Gunn began the sneak peek with a simple introduction. What followed was an approximately 12-minute sequence, starting with an official (played by John C. Reilly) describing each member of the "Guardians of the Galaxy", standing in a police line. Then the unlikely superheroes are taken to a maximum security prison in space filled with other criminal misfits.

Starlord (Chris Pratt from "The LEGO Movie") gets upset when a guard steals his music player and listens to the catchy, retro "Hooked on a Feeling", that's already been stuck in my head for months thanks to the trailer. Once inside the prison, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Groot (Vin Diesel's only three words of dialogue are "I am Groot") stick closely together.

But it's Rocket Raccoon, voiced by Bradley Cooper, who comes-up with the plan. What follows is an action-packed, cleverly choreographed, surprisingly funny and highly entertaining escape sequence. If this scene is any indication of what the entire movie will be like we're all in for a big treat. And here's my first guarantee: The breakout star of "GOTG" will be Rocket. Marvel executives should be starting discussions right now about a Rocket spinoff movie. Following the impressive clip was the debut of a new, extended trailer.

Expect big buzz to build from this special first look. Disney and Marvel are clearly gunning for "Guardians" to be the biggest movie of the summer, and after witnessing this little slice, there's no doubt they've got a great shot.

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


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"

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"

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"

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

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

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

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

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

Makeup and Hairstyling

Production Design

"How to Train Your Dragon 2"

Visual Effects

Original Score
"Million Dollar Arm"

"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" 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.

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