Thursday, September 6, 2012

Movie Preview: September 2012

2012 has been a good year for movies thus far, with a lot of surprise hits. That trend is certain to continue, but not until there is a break for a few months. That break started this past month in August. August of 2011 was fairly big with hits like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Help, but all this August has to show for Box Office wise is The Bourne Legacy (98M in August), The Campaign (74M in August), and The Expendables 2 (68M in August). Some movies like ParaNorman and Premium Rush got surprisingly high reviews, but that didn't translate into Box Office results. This all means that September of 2012 will probably be pretty dismal as well, especially since September is normally an off month anyways. But don't stop reading yet. Even if nothing earns a ton of money this month, there's certain to be a few gems hidden that you will enjoy, so let's go searching for those!

September 7th - 9th - In all honesty the first week of September was last week being that it was Labor Day weekend and the long four day weekend had three days of September, but it started with the first day of August, so that's where I put it. In case you missed what happened, The Possession scared away the competition last week with the second highest Labor Day weekend opening ever with 21M. And chances are that with the weak openings this weekend, The Possession will enjoy a surprising second week as king. Out of the two new openings this weekend, The Words wins the largest opening game and thus will probably be the most lucrative of the two. However, that title is rather vague and won't do a very good job of attracting movie goers. After studying the plot and watching the trailer, you might be a little more clear as to what this is about, but that still may not be enough to get you to the theater. Well, making your life easier, what this is is a drama. A romance drama. It's about a guy who finally achieves success as an author, but the problem is that he stole this work. And he spent too much time focusing on success while neglecting his girl. In order to have success, this movie will have to get some good word of mouth. The most intriguing aspect of this is that it has a loaded cast with Olivia Wilde, Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, and Jeremy Irons. The second movie is a last second addition to the nationwide release board. Because of this, you may have never heard of it. It is called The Cold Light of Day. From the initial look at it, it seems like a movie that could've stayed at a limited release and no one would've cared. It is a Bruce Willis movie, but certainly won't be one of his most memorable ones and more or less stars Henry Caville in the lead role as he goes jumping off buildings and dodging bullets to try to save his kidnapped family. Seems pretty cliche and unoriginal, but if you are in a huge need for an action kick, then go for it.

September 14th - 16th - Up to this point, the Box Office will have been quite lame for about a month. Even the movies in August that opening decently were sequels / remakes that failed to reach the levels of their predecessors. This weekend is where it gets a bit exciting. Not summer level exciting, but as about as exciting as you can get in September as both releases could challenge Sweet Home Alabama's September opening record of $35M. I'm not quite sure which one of them will come out on top, but my guess is that it will be Resident Evil: Retribution. Resident Evil fans don't really need an explanation for this. The Resident Evil franchise began back in 1996 when the original Resident Evil game debuted for Playstation. After that happened, the rest is history as the franchise has taken off like wildfire with tons of games, comics, toys, books, and movies. All of which are pretty well liked by Resident Evil fans. Now games don't always convert well to movies, but this game has converted well. None of the movies have earned an epic amount of money, but for R-rated action horror movies they have done just fine. Most impressively, each sequel has opened up bigger than the previous movie, which means that this 5th installment is about in line for a debut in the upper $20M range or low $30M range. As perfect counter-programming to this we get Finding Nemo (in 3D). Last September, Disney experimented with the 3D re-release game by sending The Lion King back to the theaters in 3D. That being the phenomenal success that it was, Disney got super excited and immediately scheduled four additional movies. Unfortunately Beauty and the Beast only did half as good as Lion King, so who knows where Finding Nemo will end up at. Now Finding Nemo is the first Disney/Pixar re-release and in terms of Pixar, Nemo is Pixar's second highest grossing movie in theaters and the highest when you adjust for ticket price inflation, so I could see this working out well for them. Also as a quick laugh, in limited release this weekend you have the brilliant movie called Stolen. Nicholas Cage stars in this action thriller wherein Cage's daughter has been stolen and he is given 12 hours to steal $10M in order to get her back. Hahaha! What a complete joke. Yeah, it's a great idea for a movie. It's just been made already. It's called Taken. And it stars Liam Neesen. They kinda stole the idea. I really hope it stays in limited release and doesn't go wide.

September 21st - 23rd - The previous weekend will most likely have the two biggest September movies, but this weekend is the most loaded in terms of number of new releases. While it's quite realistic that none of these four movies breakout, I'm sure that at least one of them will. The best candidate in my opinion is Trouble with the Curve. This is another baseball movie and so to predict how it will do I look at last year's baseball movie 'Moneyball'. The thing that makes Trouble with the Curve intriguing is not necessarily the fact that it is a baseball movie, but that it stars Clint Eastwood. Eastwood in this plays a baseball scout in his older age and the movie seems to be more about the relationship with his daughter than about the actual baseball scout story line. Clint Eastwood has only acted in two movies in the last eight years, the last one being Gran Torino in 2008. None of his movies have been incredibly huge Box Office hits, but the last two movies he has acted in both earned over $100M. Granted they were both December movies, but there still be some definite star appeal in this one. Last year's Moneyball ended it's run at around $75M, so a grand total somewhere between $50 and $75 wouldn't surprise me. The other three releases are all grab bag. They might surprise, but I half expect them all to bomb. First of those three is Dredd, which continues the Superhero movie craze. This however is much different. Most of the other Superhero movies get no more than a PG-13 rating and are directed towards a broad, family audience. Dredd is a strong R and is directed for a very mature audience. The character Judge Dredd is a police officer in a violent, futuristic city wherein the police are the judge, jury, and executioner. And if you didn't know, this is a remake. The original Judge Dredd came out in 1995 and was a pretty big flop, even with a good cast. Next we have the odd looking crime drama End of Watch. It's yet another movie coming out in the found footage style. This time it's a police officer carrying a camera around with him as him and his partner are out patrolling. And of course it will most likely attempt to do what Chronicle did by having something crazy and trippy happen while the two officers are working and who knows, maybe it will work out as well as Chronicle did, but I don't have a whole lot of faith in it. It is also pulled off an R rating for multiple reasons, so yeah. Last new release of the week is House at the End of the Street. This one is a horror movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. I'd say it's her first movie since she played Katniss in The Hunger Games, but technically this movie was filmed before The Hunger Games, it's just debuted a while after for certain reasons. But nonetheless, we'll see if she has the ability to draw crowds since her huge Hunger Games debut because this seems like another generic horror movie. You could probably guess the plot just by reading the title. But if you are in a mood to get scared, then check it out. Now, I did say that is the end of the new releases, but a couple limited releases for you to be made aware of. The Master is a movie that opens up in limited release on the 14th and will be expanding this weekend. It is the next movie directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, whose most recent movie was There Will Be Blood back in 2007. Anderson fans have been excited for this new movie for a while. Finally, another highly anticipated movie that opens up this week is The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This is a movie based on the book of the same title about the life of some high school students. It is generally a well liked book and the movie stars Harry Potter star Emma Watson. But don't get too excited yet, this is a limited release movie. I'm sure it will get a nationwide expansion, but not quite on this weekend.

September 28th - 30th - Now after that loaded weekend, September will end on an interesting note. Possibly the most anticipated movie of the month comes out this weekend and that would be Looper. It stars Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Bruce Willis playing the same character, Bruce Willis playing the older version of JGL. The plot sounds quite trippy honestly, which makes it intriguing. Set in the future, when the mob of 2072 targets someone, that someone gets sent back 30 years in the past where a group of killers called Loopers shoots the target. In this situation, one of the Loopers is Joe and has troubles doing his job when his future self gets sent back because he obviously has troubles killing himself. This leads to quite the intense, action packed thrill ride. Quite the serious action movie, too, as it got an R rating. Providing some good counter-programming to this is the animated family movie Hotel Transylvania. Now it will be interesting to see which animated Halloween movie comes out on top as Tim Burton's Frankenweenie comes out the very next weekend. Hotel Transylvania is a movie that is about Dracula as the head of the monster hotel, Hotel Transylvania. The conflict arrives when a human being hikes his way to the hotel and starts falling for Dracula's daughter Mavis. It has quite the cast of voices, led by Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, and David Spade. Adam Sandler being Dracula and Kevin James being Frankenstein are especially intriguing to me. The wildcard of the weekend that will most likely get lost in the weekend is the drama Won't Back Down. It stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis and is inspired by true events of two parents and a teacher joining forces to try and make a difference in the lives of their children by improving the education system of the local school. Sounds like an inspiring story, but I don't see it attracting a huge crowd, but I have been wrong about that before.

Monday, September 3, 2012

2012 NFL Season Preview: NFC

(continued from AFC preview here)

While the AFC West in my opinion is the toughest division to predict, I think the NFC East is the second toughest division to predict. Yes, there is the Super Bowl champion Giants in this division, but predicting them to repeat as champions is not as easy as you may think,  mainly because they barely won the division and thus barely made the playoffs last year. Every season with Eli Manning thus far hasn't been a great dominant season, but they seem to be talented at pulling themselves together at just the right time. Even though Eli Manning has never really been considered one of the elite quarterbacks of the league, he has proven many times over that he is a very clutch quarterback, so you can never count the Giants out. Fighting against them are three underachieving teams that hope to break that trend. Leading that squad will be the Dallas Cowboys, who are always so consistent at choking. Every year in the last 10 years or so, the Cowboys have either made a push for the divisional title or won the divisional title. They have made the playoffs 6 times since the 1998 season, three of those being divisional titles, but have a playoff record of 1-6 in that span. Ouch. Tony Romo has especially taken the hit many times. He's always considered one of the best quarterbacks of the league and always puts up amazing stats, but has never been able to win when it mattered most. The Eagles have about the same story, but the major difference is that they've proven that they can actually win playoff games. In the same span that the Cowboys went 1-6, the Eagles have gone 10-9, meaning they know how to win playoff games, they just have troubles winning the most important playoff games. They've been predicted to win the Super Bowl many seasons by experts, but can't ever do it. Recently they've started to skid even worse. The last time they won a playoff game was back in the 2008 season. The Redskins on the other hand have been as disappointing as the Cowboys and Eagles. Instead they have been just plain awful. This year they have been given some hope in the form of RGIII, Robert Griffin III if you haven't been paying attention to football recently. While I think in the long run Andrew Luck will turn out to be the better quarterback from this year's draft, I think RGIII will start his career off better and could boost the Redskins to having a surprisingly good year in his rookie season. I don't think they will make the playoffs, but they could fight for a spot and give some teams some big headaches.

This here is the powerhouse division. It would not surprise me to see three teams from this division making the playoffs. The lone team out would of course be the Minnesota Vikings, who still really don't have an identity and in a division with the Packers, Lions, and Bears, they are certain to be stuck in the NFC North Basement. The other three, like I said, will dominate. Helping their cause will be the fact that the NFC North is matched up against the NFC West and the AFC South, the two weakest divisions in football right now. The Packers last season went 15-1 after winning the Super Bowl the year before. They bring back the same dominant team as last year while adding Cedric Benson and Jeff Saturday, which means they could have running game they always wanted. The Lions had their breakout year last year as Matt Stafford stayed healthy the whole season and threw for over 5,000 yards. Megatron (Calvin Johnson) also proved to be one of the best receivers in the league, if not the best. This year Megatron has a goal to get 100 receiving yards every game, which means that even if he doesn't make that goal, he will be working his tail off, making things scary for opposing defenses. Then you have the Bears. The Bears started off last season really strong at 7-3, but thanks to injuries to several key players they sputtered off and landed at 8-8. This year they will have those players healthy and in addition the Bears added Jason Campbell, Brandon Marshall, and Michael Bush. The Bears should be a scary team this year.

The big question here comes with the Saints. The bounty scandal was the huge story of the offseason and now that all the dust is settled, the aftermath is that the Saints lose their head coach Sean Payton for the entire season as well as linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season. Assistant coach Joe Vitt and defensive end Will Smith get suspended for part of the season. Those are the suspensions that will effect the Saints. Can they recover from that? Sure they can. The biggest hit will be losing Sean Payton, the coach who essentially made the Saints what they are. If they can still win the division and make a playoff run, it will be the success story of the season, but it's my personal opinion that the other teams in their division take advantage of this setback and knock them out. I think it will be Matt Ryan and the Falcons that will take the division title. Ryan and the Falcons are still working out the whole idea of actually winning playoff games, but in his four years in the league, Ryan has led his Falcons to three playoff appearances, so I imagine them as the team to beat. The Panthers will also make some noise, that is if Cam Newton learns how to not turn the ball over. His rookie season was easily one of the best rookie seasons that a quarterback has ever had, so there is a lot of hope for the Panthers' future. Then there is the Bucs. A couple of years ago, the Bucs surprised a lot of people with a 10-6 record. With a young, talented team, most thought they would do just as good last year, but they ended up at 4-12. Quite the setback. That Bucs team learned what happens when you go from having a really easy schedule one season and a really hard schedule the next. However, they do have a good young team that I think can bounce back from last year. Plus, that's what happens in the NFC South. The team that got last place the year before often turns it around and has a good season the next year.

I really feel bad for this division. In the last while this has been one of the worst divisions in football and honestly I don't see that changing because the worst division in football gets blessed with the hardest schedule in football with the NFC North (Packers, Bears, Lions, Vikings) and the AFC East (Patriots, Jets, Dolpins, Bills). I think that Jim Harbaugh's 49ers will make it through that schedule, but the Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals will struggle. Speaking of the 49ers, I don't think that they will match the 13-3 they pulled off last year, but Jim Harbaugh is still there, so Niner fans should be fine. Essentially last year he took a 5-11 team and without making any huge changes, he turned that into a 13-3 team. How many coaches can claim they did that in their first year? Without much competition, the Niners should reign as kings of this division for at least a few years. Honestly though, the team that I think will come second is the Rams. I don't say this because I am a Rams fan, I've tried to be pretty unbiased with this whole thing. I say that because of the Rams new head coach Jeff Fisher. If you remember his tenure with Titans, he had this talent of taking a team that looked terrible on paper and somehow bringing them to a decent to great record. The team never did exceptionally well in the playoffs, but they got there or got close to being there almost every year. With Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson, along with a defense that they've done a decent job in building up this offseason, Jeff Fisher could realistically resurrect this Rams team that has been buried in the NFC West basement for a while. The other teams I don't have a lot of faith in. Neither the Seahawks or the Cardinals have a team with an identity right now. Sure the Seahakws won the division two years ago, but that was with a 7-9 record. The Cards have gone back to being awful ever since Kurt Warner retired. Both the Seahawks and Cards are having quarterback issues at the moment and with the schedules the way they are, I think both will suffer this season and both could be looking for new head coaches at the end of the regular season.

2012 NFL Season Preview: AFC

This post is in conjucture with my 2012 - 2013 season predictions. The difference as you will shortly see, is that this post gives my thoughts in words as opposed to my thoughts in records and predictions. Hope you enjoy!

It is pretty much a given that the Patriots will dominate this division. I don't see the Jets, Bills, or Dolphins giving them much of a challenge for the divisional crown. While the Patriots defense is a bit weak, their offense is killer. One writer has now claimed that Tom Brady is the best quarterback to ever play the game. While I don't agree with that, it's hard to argue that he is one of the best currently playing. With targets such as Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and Brandon Lloyd for Brady to throw to, it should make the Pats pretty hard to stop this season. The big question this season is what is going to happen with the rest of this division? Who will come in second place and who will make the playoffs is the tricky thing to predict. The Jets are certainly on the media spotlight even more than ever with Tim Tebow drama added to the already annoying media drama of Rex Ryan. Honestly I think they are going to blow up. One wrong move by Sanchez and the crowd starts chanting Tebow. If Sanchez doesn't step up and/or lets it all get to his head, he is going to get pulled and the Tebow era will start. And honestly, when that happens, the Jets season will be over in my opinion. The Dolphins have completely started over with a new head coach and a new starting quarterback. I can see Ryan Tannehill having a decent outing in his rookie season, but I can't see the Dolphins doing much damage as I see them ending mediocre as always with somewhere between 6 and 8 wins. In my opinion the surprise team to look out for is the Buffalo Bills and here's why. While I wouldn't consider them a great team, I would say that they are a good team and when you look at their schedule, it is almost ridiculously easy. In addition to playing the Dolphins and the Jets twice, they also have games against the Chiefs, Browns, Cardinals, Titans, Colts, Jaguars, Rams, and Seahawks. Finishing with anything less then 7 - 9 wins for the Bills will be extremely embarrassing. That schedule could even help them sneak into the playoffs.

With the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals in this division, it is always one of the tougher divisions to both play in and predict. This season each of the four teams will get the honor of playing the AFC West (Broncos, Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers) and the NFC East (Giants, Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins). While that doesn't make for an incredibly difficult schedule, it should make for a challenging schedule for each team as all 8 of those teams are teams that should make a run for at least a playoff spot. Ravens and Steelers should come out on top as always, although in which order they will finish always seems to vary. The Browns should finish last as always. It's been since 2002 since the Browns made a playoff appearance and 1994 since they won a playoff game and they didn't do enough in the offseason to make me believe it will be they will end those streaks. Sure the Trent Richardson addition will be nice, but Brandon Weedon and Colt McCoy headache should hurt them and with still no receivers to throw to, neither quarterback will do well. The Bengals are the most interesting team to discuss out of these four. They surprised most people last season by making a playoff appearance, but when you look at their schedule from last year that becomes less impressive. They didn't have a single win against a playoff team last year and so the schedule for this division that I mentioned before will hurt them the most I think. They do have a great young team to build off in Andy Dalton and AJ Green, but it's been over 20 years since the Bengals have made two straight playoff appearances and I don't think that streak ends this year.

It shouldn't be a huge shocker to you when I claim that this division will be the worst division in the AFC this year. The Jacksonville Jaguars are a real mess this year and will be one of the top teams in the Matt Barkley sweepstakes. Blaine Gabbert had no one to throw to last season, but even with that in mind he looked especially bad. You would've thought that he was a 6th or 7th round pick with the way he was throwing, not a 1st round pick. He could get the official bust label as early as midseason this year. The Jags did attempt to get one good receiver for him to throw to by drafting Justin Blackmon, but he immediately added character issues to his resume by getting arrested shortly after. The only thing the Jags have going for them is MJD, but there are even troubles there as he was holding out for a new contract and the Jags refused to pay him. Yes, he did end that recently, but he may not be playing with his whole heart this year. The Colts are also a disaster, but yet they do have promise with Andrew Luck. The story with them will be how well Andrew Luck does this year. I think he'll give them some promise, but the Colts will have to actually put a team around him before the Colts start contending again. The Titans could surprise people as they didn't do that poorly last year, but it will require Jake Locker to make a huge step forward if they are going to win the division. I don't think that it is being too bold for me to predict that the Texans come out on top once again. The issue they have is staying healthy. Sure they lost Mario Williams on defense and that hurts, but Wade Phillips in his first year as defensive coordinator led that defense to being one of the top in the league, which is impressive. Then there's that offense. If Matt Shaub, Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Ande Johnson all stay healthy the whole year, which is actually a lot to ask out of that crew, then the Texans could actually make a Super Bowl push.

This is the toughest division to pick this year. Coming off a year where there was a three way tie for first place, all at 8-8, with the fourth team just a game behind at 7-9, literally anything could happen and I wouldn't be surprised. In my opinion the Broncos have the heads up with Peyton Manning now running the show there. The biggest concern with him is obviously being completely recovered from neck surgery, but if healthy he has the ability to make everyone around him good. He got the Colts playoffs countless times with almost no help and the Broncos have a better corps of players than the Colts did. They managed to make the playoffs and even win a game with Tim Tebow at the head, so Bronco fans should be happy. Last year Oakland fared decently well until the crashed at the end of the season. However, a lot of the games they lost were close games they could have won, so if quarterback Carson Palmer steps up his game, they could be in for another good run this season. Now that's a big if as Carson played pretty poorly last season. In his defense, though, he thought he was retired until he got the phone call midseason that he was going to play for the Raiders. With an offseason to prepare, he could easily be back to his old self. The Chiefs are essentially the same team this year as they were last year, so what they do is up in the air. The biggest change is that they will have Romeo Crennell on full time as their head coach and so how you think the Chiefs will do will essentially rely on how well you think Romeo will do as a head coach. Many think they will win the division, but I don't think they will. He's proved to be a great coordinator, but his only stint as a head coach didn't go very well. Yes, it was with the Browns, who are pretty much a cursed franchise anyways, so you could see this as his first real head coaching job. We'll see how he does. Last but not least is the San Diego Chargers. Once upon a time the Chargers were the kings of this division, but now that the division has caught up to them recently, they are on a two year skid of missing the playoffs that could very well continue this season. Phillip Rivers is a good quarterback who has recently forgotten that he plays for the Chargers (33 interceptions in the last 2 years - 20 last year). They did a good job of scaring off their best receiver in Vincent Jackson and only hope that the WRs the brought in this year can fill the void. There is also a lot of hope on the thus far underachieving Ryan Matthews. They could either pull themselves together or fall completely apart and neither would surprise me.

(continue with the NFC preview here)