[CONTINUED] WHICH ANIMATED FILM WILL OWN THE SUMMER?
After a fallow stretch for animated movies to start the year, five films will open over the summer, including the sequels to past hits ‘Monsters Inc.’, ‘The Smurfs’ and "Despicable Me."
While each of those movies belongs to a different studio, Fox also has two original players in the game -- the aforementioned ‘Epic’ and ‘Turbo’, the next film from its new distribution partner DreamWorks Animation.
'Epic' movie trailer
Last year all three major animated films – ‘Brave’, ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ and ‘Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted’ -- turned a profit. This year, the schedule may be too condensed for that, as four animated films debut in a two-month stretch.
So who comes out on top? While ‘Epic’ has the most time to itself, it's hard to argue with two of the sequels – ‘Monsters University’ and ‘Despicable Me 2’. Universal is so confident in the latter that it has already approved a spin-off due out in December 2014.
DOES WILL SMITH REVIVE M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN OR DOES SHYAMALAN SINK WILL SMITH?
Before Will Smith took a break from acting in 2008, he was the biggest movie star on the planet. His mere presence earned a movie US$100 million at the box office, whether it was ‘Seven Pounds’ or ‘Hitch’. ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, an intimate drama about a man who struggles to provide a home for his son, grossed US$307 million.
He's only made one movie since he returned, ‘Men In Black 3’, which used an eager foreign audience to gross upwards of US$600 million.
'After Earth' trailer
Smith has now placed himself in the hands of a director whose recent track record is questionable. Shyamalan, once one of Hollywood's most desirable filmmakers thanks to ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Signs’, hasn't made a good movie in years. Two of his last three, ‘Lady in the Water’ and ‘The Last Airbender’, were costly misses.
Smith envisions ‘After Earth’ as a trilogy, but you need the first one to succeed to make any more.
WHICH INDIE DARLING WILL TAKE OFF?
Though studio films dominate the summer, there is always room for a smaller film or two to break through and upend the traditional pecking order. The next ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ or ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ may be impossible to predict, but permit us to single out a studio – CBS Films.
CBS has two different comedies at opposite ends of summer, both of which hold great potential. One is ‘The Kings of Summer’, an popular film at Sundance that pairs rising stars Nick Robinson and Moises Arias with comedy stalwarts Nick Offerman and Alison Brie. An unconventional coming of age tale about boys who run away from home, it packs a lot of laughs..
Two and a half months later, theaters receive ‘The To Do List’, another film with a rising star in the lead flanked by respected comedic actors. Aubrey Plaza of ‘Parks & Recreation’ plays a high school graduate about to head off to college, and she's joined by Christoper Mintz-Plasse, Rachel Bilson, Bill Hader and Andy Samberg. Chalk this one up to intuition, but Plaza can play diffident, earnest, sweet and sarcastic all in the same character. Combine that with a bevy of funny supporting characters and you've got the right mix for a late summer hit.
WILL ‘LONE RANGER’ SAVE THE WESTERN OR KILL IT?
The western was one of the most prevalent and popular film genres in the early years of Hollywood, as directors like Howard Hawks and John Ford traversed the plains of Utah and Arizona.
As urbanization drew compelling criminals and heroic outcasts to the inner city, the western disappeared (save a brief resurgence with the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood).
'The Lone Ranger' trailer
After the strong performance of Quentin Tarantino's ‘Django Unchained’ -- part-western, part-slave tale -- the table could be set for the true return of the genre. Several of Hollywood's top stars are at work on their own westerns, from Seth MacFarlane to Natalie Portman.
Yet ‘The Lone Ranger’, which opens 3 July, will be the true test. The film reunites the core of Disney's successful ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise -- Johnny Depp, director Gore Verbinski and producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
That trio created one of the most successful movie franchises in recent memory, but this project has been a magnet for criticism over the past few years given its substantial budget, which at one time got production shut down. Many think the cost is prohibitive, ensuring a disappointing box office result.
Still, it would be unwise to write the film off. After all, basing a movie around a mincing, mascara wearing bucaneer and drawing on a moldering amusement park ride once seemed like a horrible idea. Guess who got the last laugh?