“A Good Day to Die Hard”
What's it about? John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia to visit his wayward son, Jack (Jai Courtney), but, in typical McClane fashion, soon finds himself in way over his head once the two begin fighting against international terrorists.
Will it be good? This one is a real wild card. “Live Free or Die Hard” was a serviceable, if generic, “Bruce Willis Action Movie” but a horrible “Die Hard” movie. There's nothing that immediately makes me think this fifth entry in the series will somehow make it a worthy successor to one of the greatest action films of all time, and yet there's something about the trailer that makes me optimistic. Here's hoping.
What's it about? A boy befriends a girl in a small, deep South town, only to find out she and the rest of her family are witches.
Will it be good? Here we go with yet another attempt to make a successful film franchise out of a series of young adult novels. This looks full of all the cheap special effects and angsty melodrama we've come to expect out of source material of this sort, although the setting does add an interesting bit of flavor to the proceedings. The presence of Jeremy Irons and Viola Davis are welcome, though sadly, Irons' presence is hardly indicative of quality, especially with fantasy-related properties. (See also: “Dungeons & Dragons.”)
What's it about? A young woman running from her past finds solace in a small North Carolina town where she must confront her past after developing a relationship with a widower.
Will it be good? If you skipped over the title and only read that synopsis, you'd be forgiven if you couldn't tell which Nicholas Sparks novel being described. That should tell you everything you need to know about this.
What's it about? A father (Dwayne Johnson) goes undercover for the DEA to help bring down a drug kingpin in a deal that will help release his son from jail.
Will it be good? Despite my unending love for Johnson and his limitless presence and charisma, his choice of projects is often dreadful. (“Tooth Fairy?” Really?) That said, this looks like the kind of movie that allows him to be just the right amount of dramatic while also having enough space for him to flex the physicality and presence we all know him for. I'm going in optimistic, though cautiously. Chances are it'll end up mostly forgettable.
What's it about? An unassuming suburban family discovers they are at the target of a mysterious and terrifying force.
Will it be good? It's directed by the guy who gave us the stupefyingly horrible “Legion” and “Priest” and the trailer had people laughing out loud at moments intended to be disturbing. So, no. The answer is “No.”
“21 and Over”
What's it about? Two guys take their buddy out to party hard for his 21st birthday the night before his medical school entrance exam. Things get crazy.
Will it be good? If you watched the trailer and thought “this looks like it's just going to be a college-bound version of 'The Hangover,'” you're likely doing so because this was written by the same guys as that. In other words, if you enjoyed the increasingly absurd antics and situations of “The Hangover” parts 1 and 2, this looks to be up your alley. Personally, I think “The Hangover” is decent at best. This looks to follow in its footsteps.
“The Last Excorcism Part II”
What's it about? Nell Sweetzer is still reeling from the events chronicled in the first film, only to discover the evil that tormented her is returning with a vengeance.
Will it be good? I quite liked the first film despite a disappointing and frustrating ending. That said, I'm not sure we need a sequel, though I am glad to see them ditching the unnecessary “found footage” angle. That said, the first film was interesting due to its main character, Cotton Marcus, who is nowhere to be found here, so I have little interest in this.
“Jack the Giant Slayer”
What's it about? Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is thrust into the middle of a massive battle when a long-standing peace between humans and giants is broken.
Will it be good? Despite the presence of so many great actors whom I love (Stanley Tucci, Ewan MacGregor, Bill Nighy, Ian McShane), this looks downright horrible. There's a reason the studio pushed this back from a prime summer 2012 spot to…March 2013. (Spoilers: It's probably because it stinks.)
What's it about? The story of the Wizard of Oz before he became the Wizard. Oz (James Franco), a small fry magician (with less than savory motives) gets transported to Oz where the fate of the land soon rests in his hands.
Will it be good? The trailers have done little to excite me, but I am always willing to give Sam Raimi the benefit of the doubt with whatever he creates and this is no exception. Franco might seem a questionable choice for this sort of lead, but Raimi's casting of the witches is what really has me interested with Michelle Williams, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz in the roles.
“Dead Man Down”
What's it about? A woman (Noomi Rapace) seeks vengeance against a crime boss (Terrence Howard) and seduces a hitman (Colin Farrell) to help her exact it.
Will it be good? I love Howard and Farrell a whole bunch and am always happy to see them get more work. This looks like it could go either way, however and be something that becomes something of a gritty, brutal little sleeper hit or one that tries hard but ultimately misses the mark.
What's it about? Burt (Steve Carell) splits with his longtime stage partner (Steve Buscemi) after being publically shamed by a smug Vegas street magician (Jim Carrey). Burt then tries to rediscover why he loved being a magician to begin with.
Will it be good? Maybe? The presence of Carell and Buscemi, along with Carrey and especially Alan Arkin (playing the magician who inspired Carell's character) gives me hope. There's some top notch talent here, but this is the sort of thing a weak script could quite easily sink. I'm hopeful, though.
What's it about? Betrayed by the American government, the Joes are all but wiped out and it's up to the few surviving members of the team to find out what sinister plot COBRA has cooked up. Chances are it involves world domination. And explosions. Lots of explosions.
Will it be good? I unabashedly loved the first “G.I. Joe” despite its massive and glaring shortcomings. I think Jon Chu is a great choice for this kind of movie given how well he knows how to shoot kinetic action sequences but anytime a film's release is significantly delayed I get worried (this was originally to open last summer). That said, I remain hopeful, if only because I really, really want Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to have a successful action franchise of his own.
What's it about? An alien parasite attaches itself to a human girl. But instead of taking over her body and carrying out her mission of world domination, the parasite bonds with the girl to help free other humans from enslavement.
Will it be good? It's based on a book by “Twilight” author Stephanie Meyer, so my immediate reaction is to simply laugh until it hurts. However, this is directed by Andrew Niccol, who gave us the truly great (and sorely overlooked) “Gattaca.” His track record since then has been spotty at best, but who knows, maybe he'll surprise us.
What's it about? A group of kids partying at a remote cabin in the woods must face an unspeakable evil when one of them unwittingly unleashes demons by reading from an ancient book.
Will it be good? As mentioned above, I am a massive Sam Raimi fan, and that of course includes his cult classic, “The Evil Dead.” It's a genius bit of no-budget filmmaking, with no shortage of that classic status coming from the work by Bruce Campbell in the lead role. Did we need a remake of Raimi's seminal film? Not necessarily, and sure, there's certainly room for a new, more brutal take on the material to exist (which this certainly seems to be going for). But I just wonder why call it “Evil Dead” when it's not going to have the personality of Raimi's work and instead possibly just come off as another “cabin in the woods” grisly horror flick.
“Olympus Has Fallen”
What's it about? Terrorists hold the president (Aaron Eckhart) hostage. Only a former Secret Service agent (Gerard Butler) can save him.
Will it be good? Almost certainly not, but it looks over-the-top enough as to be momentarily entertaining.
What's it about? Oh c'mon, do you really need a synopsis for this by now?
Will it be good? I am exceptionally excited for this, even though I'll be forced to see it in 3D (the post-conversion is the reason for this re-release). I never got to see “Jurassic Park” in the theater when I was a kid, so you can bet I'll be there opening night.
What's it about? A biopic about Jackie Robinson making history when signing to play baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Will it be good? I really hope so. This is one of those Great Moments unique to American history that deserves a truly Great Film. I was surprised to see Harrison Ford pop up in this. It'd be nice to see him in a great role and film once more.
What's it about? A veteran soldier (Tom Cruise) is court-martialed and forced to eradicate the remains of an alien race long after they have laid waste to Earth. However, his discovery of human survivors forces him to question what's really going on.
Will it be good? It's helmed by “TRON: Legacy” director Joseph Kosinski, a man quite capable behind the lens but who has yet to work with a script that augments those talents. Cruise, at least, has a solid track record of picking projects that are at least entertaining, so perhaps this holds more promise than Kosinski's slim record might suggest.
“Pain & Gain”
What's it about? Based on the true story of a trio of Florida body builders whose plans to extort a local millionaire go horribly awry.
Will it be good? Michael Bay has never been known for making “small” films, but this seems positively Coen Bros.-esque (in both size, content and tone) compared to most of his work. This looks chock-full of black humor and Mark Wahlberg, The Rock and Anthony Mackie all look perfectly suited to deliver. This is, honest-to-goodness, one of my most-anticipated films of the season.