by Michael Siebenaler Get ready for one of the most promising movie years ever! (NOTE: all release dates subject to change): The Force Awakensin the Star Wars universe on December 18 as J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible III) takes the helm for Episode VII. Sci-fi releases will include the delayed Jupiter Ascending (Feb. 6), Chappie(March 6), Project Almanac, Ex Machina, Self/Less, Midnight Special(Nov. 25), The Martian, and Pixels (July 24), where video game experts must help fight video game characters who’ve attacked New York. The amazing amount of high profile sequels continue with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2(Nov. 20), Ted 2(June 26), Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15), Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15), Jurassic World (June 23), Terminator Genisys (July 1), Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (Sept. 18), The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Transporter Legacy, London Has Fallen (Oct. 2), Vacation (Oct. 9), Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sept. 25), and Mission Impossible 5. Minions (July 10) shows the origins of the fun yellow creatures from the Despicable Me animated comedy film series, while Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will be the first feature film to release simultaneously on Netflix and IMAX theaters on Aug. 28. Set in a futuristic Chicago, The Divergent Series: Insurgent(March 20) builds on the initiating Divergent action-adventure fantasy on March 20 which will be followed by Allegiant Part 1 (2016) and Part 2 (2017). Vin Diesel doubles down with Furious 7 (April 3) and The Last Witch Hunter (Oct. 23) while Kevin Costner continues cranking out multiple releases with Criminal (August 21) with Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman, family drama Black or White and McFarland, USA (Feb. 20) where he stars as a cross country coach. Comedies hoping for big laughs include Get Hard (March 27), Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (April 17), Trainwreck (July 17), and Don’t Mess With Texas (May 8) starring Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara. Acme reboots the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoon crew on Oct. 30. More animated features will include Alvin and the Chipmunks 4 (Dec. 23), Home (March 27), The Good Dinosaur (Nov. 25), Monster Trucks (May 29), The Peanuts Movie (Nov. 6), and the latest from Disney & Pixar Inside Out (June 19). Suspense will be high in Child 44, based on the first novel in author Tom Rob Smith’s best-selling trilogy,starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, and Noomi Rapace releasing on April 17. Spy-related films like the Melissa McCarthy-Jason Statham action comedy Spy, Grimsby (July 31), Kingsmen: The Secret Service (Feb. 13) and the next James Bond film Spectre (Nov. 6) will be a big theme next year. Audiences will revisit familiar franchises in Pan (July 24), Goosebumps (Aug. 7), Disney’s The Jungle Book (Oct. 9), and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Aug. 14) starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Hugh Grant. Superheroes won’t be in short supply with Ant-Man (July 17), Fantastic Four (August 7), and Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1). Disneynature’s annual Earth Day documentary will be Monkey Kingdom (April 17) while the live action Cinderella (March 13) stars Cate Blanchett as the stepmother and rising star Lily James. Disney will also take audiences to Tomorrowland on May 22 with George Clooney, newcomer Britt Robertson, and Hugh Laurie starring. Drama Director Robert Zemeckis and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt take The Walk on October 2 based on Philippe Petit’s attempt to cross the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Tom Hanks and director Steven Speilberg team up again for a Cold War spy thriller on October 16. The earthquake disaster movie San Andreas (May 29) stars Dwayne Johnson as a helicopter pilot searching for his daughter amid the chaos while A Little Chaos (March 27) stars Kate Winslet as the landscape-gardnener creating the grand gardens at Versaillers with Alan Rickman co-starring and directing. In the drama romance The Age of Adaline (April 24), Blake Lively stars as a beautiful woman who miraculously stops aging at 29 finally finds true love eight decades later. Harrison Ford, Kathy Baker and Ellen Burstyn. More holiday Joy will come on December 25 as director/writer/filmmaker David O. Russell reassembles Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro for an inspiring story about a single mom who transforms into a successful entrepreneur. Max (August 21) tells the tale of a heroic dog that assists U.S. soldiers while Ricki and the Flash (June 26) features Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in this drama about an aging rock star trying to reconnect with family. Upcoming epic dramas include the Russell Crowe headliner The Water Diviner (April 24) and In the Hearts of the Sea (March 13). Hope you have a great 2015! Home Video Review John Wick Keanu Reeves works well with the stunt expert-turned-filmmaker team of David Leitch and Chad Stahelski in this solid action thriller showcase. Reeves stars as John Wick, an expert hitman who’s “retired” then gets drawn back into the underground crime world set in New York City. People in this crime world who don’t know John’s reputation and prowess unknowingly unleash John’s relentless pursuit of the target who wronged him on a very personal level. In this world, everyone knows John’s name due to his reputation and past actions. He is disciplined in all aspects of his simplified life. He gets respect on sight, but this anti-hero is not cocky and does not taunt his foes. John lets his action do the talking, as Reeves continually amazes with his physical prowess while performing several tough stunt sequences. Reeves even reunites with his Matrix Reloaded co-star Randall Duk Kim in a key sequence that gives the audience a break in the action. John forges through any resistance in front of his vengeful mission without wallowing in his own personal, emotional, or physical issues. “They know you’re coming,” says knowledgeable associate named Winstone, played by Ian McShane. “It won’t matter,” John replies. John is simply relentless even in his return to this life carrying his newfound vulnerability. This humble hitman even states how his previous life was “better than he deserved.” The cast and crew create a straight-ahead approach that does not yield many surprises, though the filmmakers open some opportunities for some mild twists like a surprise visitor where audiences only initially hear the voice then see the surprise visitor in a later scene. John depends heavily on his relationships with others. Audiences see this violent world through the eyes of two unique stunt experts-turned film directors and their talented cast and crew with this no-nonsense approach and stellar supporting cast. The filmmakers blow open the doors on a crime underworld in which no one wants to get involved. Audiences even encounter the clean-up crew who erases the blood filled results from the constant battles, painting a dark picture using great sound, music, and action while filming in New York City and Long Island. By the end, I want to see where John is going as well as where he has been, so some future prequel films, TV mini-series, or related media would be very welcome. The potential for sequels is also definitely there. Recommended (***) and rated R for strong and bloody violence throughout, language, and brief drug use. February 2015 home video calendar (release dates subject to change): The Best of Me – Based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel, this drama about reuniting love amid small town circumstances and stars Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden. (2/3) Dracula Untold-Luke Evans stars as the famous vampire in this origin epic. (2/3) Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Based on the classic 1972 children’s book, this family comedy stars Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner as the parents of the unlucky Alexander, played by Ed Oxenbould. (2/10) Kill the Messenger – Jeremy Renner stars as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter exposing illegal activity in this drama thriller. Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Tim Blake Nelson, Barry Pepper, Oliver Platt, Michael Sheen, Paz Vega, and Andy Garcia co-star. (2/10) Nightcrawler – Writer (The Bourne Legacy) and now first-time director Dan Gilroy helms this crime thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Bill Paxton. (2/10) Rosewater – TV’s Daily Show host Jon Stewart makes his directorial and screenwriting debut in this journalistic drama based on the best-selling memoir “Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival,” written by Maziar Bahari. (2/10) Dumb and Dumber Two – The Farrelly Brothers and stars Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels return in this comedy sequel. (2/17) The Tale of the Princes Kaguya – This animated fantasy is based on the classic Japanese folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter” and features the voice talents of Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden, Oliver Platt, and Dean Cain. (2/17)
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