Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Summer Box Office Predictions

Last summer seventeen movies made it past the $100 million mark, with six of those passing $200 million. I will say this is one of the hardest summer to guess on (not that I'm hitting bullseyes every summer) because with the economy, some movies are actually doing better. I mean, who could have seen coming the triumphs of Paul Blart, Taken, Knowing, Fast & Furious, and Obsessed?

1. HARRY POTTER & THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE - $335 million - It's been two years since the last one, a little longer lay-off than usual, and this one really gets into some background of some characters. It also has the Dark Knight spot.

2. TRANSFORMERS 2 - $270 million - I can't say I'm hyped for this one, but this is one where I'm assuming it's my age (I'll have turned 36 a few days before this opens). I think this will be big with the 12-25 range. I hope they spend a little more time on the robots and a little less on the humans.

3. STAR TREK - $255 million - It looks huge. It looks different. It looks accessible to non-fans. It looks like the shot-in-the-arm the franchise needed to stay viable.

4. NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 2 - $250 million - The publicity hasn't hooked me yet, but the first one was a giant success, and this one promises to be funnier. Ben Stiller's proven to have a pretty good track record.

5. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE - $230 million - I see this thing opening in the $75-80 million range, getting dealt a body blow by Star Trek the next week, but both of them have decent legs to ride the rest of May while theaters keep trying to get rid of Fighting, The Soloist, and Crank 2. General consensus so far is that it's at least better than X-Men 3.

6. UP - $225 million - Pixar can do no wrong. Doesn't look like the masterpiece Wall-E was, but looks more accessible.

7. ICE AGE 3 - $215 million - Does the franchise still have legs? The Scrat previews are always entertaining.

8. ANGELS & DEMONS - $160 million - Not the event that The Da Vinci Code was, even if the movie wound up being not that great. Angels & Demons actually has a better plot book-wise, so hopefully it will make for a better movie.

9. JULIE & JULIA - $144 million - I know there's gotta be a $100+ million grossing chick flick somewhere in here, and this looks like the most potential even though it doesn't have the name recognition of Sex & the City or Mamma Mia! It does have Meryl Streep, and she's turning out lately to be one of the most reliable female box-office stars. Between this and Night at the Museum 2, Amy Adams will have a good summer.

10. LAND OF THE LOST - $138 million - The preview looks okay. It at least keeps some of the elements of the series. And Will Ferrell running from dinosaurs might be enough to get kids begging to see it.

11. TERMINATOR SALVATION - $130 million - Something's gotta slip somewhere, and I'm wondering if it's this one. I liked the final trailer they have, but it looks as bleak as a PG-13 movie can possibly be, with Christian Bale maybe doing some damage to himself after his infamous rant. (See also: the box-office for Mission Impossible 3 after Tom Cruise went couch-hopping.) Plus it's McG and I don't know how good a straight actioner he can actually make.

12. PUBLIC ENEMIES - $125 million - It's Michael Mann. It's Johnny Depp. But it is an R-rated gangster flick in summer, so $125 million is pretty darn good. And it will make for a good Christian Bale summer.

13. THE PROPOSAL - $110 million - Yes, it's a contrived plot, but it's gotten laughs from the audience every time I've seen it, and again, I can't see any other chick flick not yet listed doing better. Maybe it's Sandra Bullock's comeback.

14. G-FORCE - $107 million - Looks like The Wonder Pets to me with 10,000 times the budget. Those talking-animals movies tend to do better than I ever think they will. G-Force to me means Battle of the Planets, but I didn't see Mark, Jason, Tiny, Cheops and Princess in the trailer.

15. THE YEAR ONE - $105 million - Dry laughs with Jack Black and Michael Cera living in B.C. times. I think it looks funny but it might be crowded out by other titles opening around it.

16. FUNNY PEOPLE - $101 million - Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen try to mix the comedy and drama, as stand-up comedians. Their goal is probably something like 1988's Punchline but with two Tom Hankses and no Sally Fields. I will be impressed the first time Judd Apatow writes a movie where no one smokes pot.

17. THE UGLY TRUTH - $85 million - I don't get the Katherine Heigl thing, but hey, this has a shot. My goodness, What Happens in Vegas almost made this much.

18. BRUNO - $79 million - Looks like it will be about as outrageous in 2009 as Borat was in 2006.

19. THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 - $77 million - Grown-up remake of the Walter Matthau semi-classic (I'm actually watching it now; DVR'd it a couple months ago). Denzel Washington can be counted on for a certain level of box-office. John Travolta, who plays villains half the time, looks more dangerous than usual. This could be a surprise hit, but I think this is the range the studio is expecting.

20. THE HANGOVER - $72 million - Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Gali-something-ikis seem like the B-team of Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson turning it down, but just writing that, I realized that I'm more interested in seeing it with these three lesser-known guys than I would be with the more famous three. Good preview.

Possible sleepers:

Drag Me to Hell - I just realized I don't have a horror flick on here, but then again, last year a horror flick did not make the top 20. But #21 was The Happening and #22 was The Strangers. Drag Me to Hell's being produced by Sam Raimi, so I think it'll be a little more creative than Final Destination 4 or H2.

They Came From Upstairs - Also a horror flick, so....

H2 - Rob Zombie's Halloween follow-up will probably gross around $50 million overall, but with Friday the 13th opening huge, maybe there's an increased desire to see the old serial-killers doing their thang.

Imagine That - After Meet Dave died an ignominious death, I wonder if Eddie Murphy can rebound, and Imagine That might do it. I haven't seen the preview yet but it sounds too similar to Bedtime Stories.

My Sister's Keeper - Based on the best-seller, if it's a good adaptation, it could bring out fans, plus it'll be interesting to see how Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin play off each other as mother and daughter.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, I Love You Beth Cooper, or When in Rome - One should do well, but I doubt all three. I remember when Ghosts was a Ben Affleck project and they yanked the plug because they didn't feel like he was bankable anymore. But his wife stayed in it.

Predicted bombs:

G.I. Joe - They made Joe an international force instead of an American one, so it's like a secret U.N. fighting team. Riiiight. It has name recognition, but most fanboys I know/read/hear from think this is going to suck and be the bomb of the summer.

Inglorious Basterds - I think this will make a lot more money since it has Brad Pitt, but Quentin Tarantino has been living off borrowed cool for a while now. I'd love to be wrong on this one.

Shorts - Robert Rodriguez got the story idea from his kids. Last time he did that, we got The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl. Yeesh.

My Life in Ruins - Nia Vardalos attempts to recapture the Big Fat Greek Wedding magic.

The Brothers Bloom - Yanked off the winter release schedule days before it was supposed to open, I don't think Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo have become any more bankable in the past six months.

Summer 2008
1. The Dark Knight - $527.36 million
2. Iron Man - $318.31
3. Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - $317.02
4. Hancock - $227.95
5. Wall-E - $222.1
6. Kung Fu Panda - $215.43
7. Sex & the City - $152.53
8. Mamma Mia! - $143.33
9. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - $141.62
10. The Incredible Hulk - $134.53
11. Wanted - $134.33
12. Get Smart - $130.25
13. Tropic Thunder - $109.88
14. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor - $102.28
15. Journey to the Center of the Earth - $100.83
16. Step Brothers - $100.47
17. You Don't Mess with the Zohan - $100.02
18. Pineapple Express - $87.34
19. What Happens in Vegas - $80.28
20. Hellboy II: The Golden Army - $75.79

Monday, April 27, 2009

Observe & Report - Movie Review

OBSERVE & REPORT (**1/2) - Starring Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Michael Pena, Celia Weston and Aziz Ansari.
Directed by Jody Hill.

Haven't seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but I imagine this is the bizarro-world, evil version of that movie. Seth Rogen plays Ronnie Bernhardt, a bipolar, mean-spirited, delusional mall cop who sees himself as a lone warrior keeping mall patrons safe from flashers. It's a lot like The Foot-Fist Way, but it goes even further than Foot-Fist ever dared.

The biggest laugh for me came in the first five minutes. Toward the end though, one character expressed what I'd been feeling about the previous half-hour. When a detective is listening in to Ronnie being told he doesn't qualify to be a real policeman, he comes out of hiding and says, "I thought this was going to be funny, but it's really kinda sad." It's underlined by a scene at the end of the flasher running through the mall, and there are no Austin Powers/Beowulf tricks to hide his shortcomings.

I appreciate Seth Rogen going for something different, and going full out, but I keep thinking of Alan Alda's rule of comedy he expresses in Woody Allen's Crimes & Misdemeanors: if it bends, it's funny. If it breaks, it's not funny. This movie bends a lot and then it breaks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Spirit - DVD Review

THE SPIRIT (*1/2) - Starring Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Sarah Paulson, Dan Lauria, Paz Vega, Eric Balfour and Louis Lombardi.
Directed by Frank Miller.

Please don't let Frank Miller near a Dick Tracy remake. Not that I've heard rumors or anything, but if anyone suggests it, slap them down. Apparently his co-directing gig on Sin City was lightning in a bottle, because tonally this movie never calms down and just struck me as silly. Sometimes it's has as much heft as a shot-by-shot remake of a 1978 Superfriends episode, complete with Wonder Woman showing us how to do a card trick. Most of the time though, it's like watching Dick Tracy remade by the cast and crew of America's Next Top Model.

Gabriel Macht will someday do something memorable in another film, but he gets no help from Miller, whose emphasis was on visuals, and the visuals are great, but that doesn't mean there are any appealing characters or engrossing plotlines. The word that keeps coming back to me is "silly." Silly, silly, silly.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Monsters vs. Aliens - Movie Review

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS (***) - Starring the voices of Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, and Paul Rudd.

Took the family to this. We had free matinee tickets. The only thing that would have been was if we'd had free 3-D tickets, but I ain't complaining.

I was actually a little worried this would be like most other DreamWorks animated flicks where they insert dirty humor here and there, which made the Shrek movies progressively worse and helped sink Shark Tale, but there wasn't anything more vulgar than what the previews show.

This movie takes the sci-fi paranoia of the post-Roswell era, mixes in the military absurdism of Dr. Strangelove, and mixes it in with a crop of lovable weird characters, and it results in a decent if not disposable little $150 million movie.

Most of the laughs come from B.O.B., the blue blob voiced by Seth Rogen. The lead though is Susan, an idealistic bride-to-be who has a radioactive meteor land on her on her wedding day. Her fiance freaks out at her fifty-footness, while war honcho General W.R. Monger (get it? get it?!) dubs her a monster that must be locked away to keep citizens safe. In the safe confines of Area 51, she befriends B.O.B., Dr. Cockroach (a mad scientist with the head of a cockroach), the Missing Link (a 20,000 year-old fishman), and Insectisaurus, a 350-foot tall insect-grub thing.

They are promised their freedom when aliens invade and threatens to eliminate the human race. So if you looked at the title and thought it was based on the lost seventh Jane Austen novel, your thought process maddens but intrigues me.

Hulk Hogan's foot in mouth

A co-worker sent this to me:

Hulk Hogan isn't taking his divorce too well. In fact, he says it makes him relate to O.J. Simpson. Here's Hulk in Rolling Stone: "You live half a mile from the 20,000-square-foot home you can't go to anymore, you're driving through downtown Clearwater and see a 19-year-old boy driving your Escalade, and you know that a 19-year-old boy is sleeping in your bed, with your wife . . . I totally understand OJ. I get it."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Seven Pounds - DVD Review

SEVEN POUNDS (*1/2) - Starring Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper, Elpidia Carrillo, Robinne Lee, Bill Smitrovich and Andy Milder.
Directed by Gabriele Muccino.

It's not the worst movie of 2008, but it is one of the most ill-conceived. The whole movie hinges on the secret of the ending, but since the first scene is Will Smith's character calling 911 to report his own suicide, we then go back in time to see what has led him to this. It becomes fairly obvious where this is going, as morbid as it is. And so we watch, uncomfortably, as this "feel-good" movie careens toward the worst positive-messaged ending since Haley Joel Osment got stabbed in Act III of Pay It Forward.

Smith and Muccino had financial success with The Pursuit of Happyness, although for me that movie dwelt so deeply on that character's suffering that the happy ending, all thirty seconds of it, didn't feel like enough payoff for what we went through as an audience watching this man's life fall apart.

So we now we have this. This... thing. I'm never going to look at jellyfish the same way again.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Synecdoche NY - DVD Review

SYNECDOCHE NY (**1/2) - Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Tom Noonan, Dianne Wiest and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Directed by Charlie Kaufman.

If this is a comedy, I don't get it. And if it's not, well then, I've never seen a movie that eats its own tail and its own head and back to its second tail. Until now.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, a guy who's always been unafraid to take risks, plays Kaufman's ego Caden Cotard, a struggling playwright whose life is falling apart just as he gets a big grant to create a new play. So he creates a life-size replica of New York in a giant warehouse and does an autobiographical play. But rehearsals go on for thirty years.

During this time, Caden casts an actor to play himself. Then he has to cast an actor to play the actor Caden cast to play himself. Then he has to cast an actor to play the actor to play the actor Caden cast to play himself...

The arc of this movie compares to a six-year-old doing a maze. It hits several dead ends so it just backpeddles and takes a different path.

Kaufman's a great writer, but his directing... meh. I like it better when Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry breathes life into his words. This is probably Kaufman's most indulgent script to date, and that's saying something after Adaptation (which I really liked.) This made several top-ten lists. It is definitely different, but for me, this movie is one where Emperor Charlie is wearing the least amount of clothes.

Role Models - DVD Review

ROLE MODELS (***) - Starring Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Bobb'E J. Thompson, Elizabeth Banks, Jane Lynch, Ken Jeong and Ken Marino.
Directed by David Wain.

Parts of this movie were really funny. I loved everything that happened with Paul Rudd mentoring a live-action role-playing geek. I wasn't that thrilled with Seann William Scott mentoring a potty-mouthed ten-year-old. I don't like it when movies have their kids constantly swear. But Scott and Rudd have good chemistry together, and the writing is solid.

Mintz-Plasse is the roleplaying geek, he who's best known as McLovin. He will be McLovin the rest of his life, and I hope he's cool with that. Kinda like how even though Jon Cryer's been on the #1 sitcom for years, he's always going to be Ducky.

Also really good is Christopher Guest vet Jane Lynch as the boss of the Big Brother program. She's a former drug addict who's turned her life around by mentoring young boys, but she's still just wired enough to where you don't feel safe around her.

Survivor: Tocatins predictions

They didn't have much of a choice, but I like that Taj and Stephen brought in JT as their fifth wheel. I think Brendan and Sierra need to secure their own fifth wheel (I nominate Erinn, because she'd be on board with any alliance that'd dump Coach sooner than later).

Jeff Probst said this season has some epic blindsides, but if I was a predicting sort, I'd guess at the merge, they vote out Joe. Then Brendan and company decide to get rid of Coach. Tyson freaks out and tries to rally the troops against the Secret Alliance, but fails and is voted out. But now some wheels are turning and JT says he needs the idol. Taj doesn't give it to him, he's angry, but Taj is the one voted out, with JT deciding she has too much power.

The Alliance is split, and JT goes next. Stephen is latching on to anyone and he manages to get a blindside against Brendan, who is seen as too powerful by now by Erinn and Debbie. Sierra feels on the outs and tries to get a girl thing going, and Stephen, the last man standing, points out Debbie hasn't done much all game, but hey, that makes her easy to beat, so Stephen goes. Down to Erinn, Sierra and Debbie, if it's the final three, and if there's one more, they probably vote out Sierra because she was in that original powerful alliance. She's not in a power spot right now, but I can see Erinn winning this whole thing.