There are three haves and 14 have-nots this August, making it further proof that Hollywood views August as the perfect time to release anything in their library they view as embarrassing. The only real decision this month comes down to how a person ranks The Bourne Ultimatum versus Rush Hour 3. On paper, the gap between these two titles and the rest of the top ten is that dramatic. Third place is rather clearly Superbad, and the bottom falls out after that. Picking the number four film this month is like picking which of your teeth you would most enjoy being ripped out with a pair of pliers. No selection is going to be ultimately satisfying. And it only gets uglier in filling out the rest of the top ten from there.
August 2007 Forecast
By David Mumpower
August 3, 2007
1) The Bourne Ultimatum
The latest release in the Bourne franchise is not going to sneak up on anyone. After the relatively quiet debut of The Bourne Identity in the summer of 2002, word-of-mouth drove the title into the stratosphere of all-time great action movies. In fact, I consider it to be the genre's best since Die Hard.
When The Bourne Supremacy was ready to makes its debut, many box office analysts questioned whether its predecessor's success on the home video market would translate into greater theatrical revenue for the sequel. An opening of twice The Bourne Identity and final box office of $176 million emphatically answered that question. At this point, the Bourne franchise has become what the James Bond franchise had been in the 20th century. It is the thinking man's action film, a delirious combination of gripping action and cerebral espionage.
While there had been concerns about the storyline for The Bourne Ultimatum as recently as six months ago, early buzz and reviews are the stuff of myth and legend. The third (and possibly final) film in the franchise being hailed as the best, the satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that many argue Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean and Shrek all lacked this summer. None of this matters if the marketing is lacking, of course. Fortunately, this is not a concern here. A tense trailer highlighted by Bourne ominously informing a would-be pursuer that Bourne is currently going through the personal belongings at the man's office drives home the series' underlying theme. This is a man of action who addresses opponents heads up rather than lying in wait. Audiences agree that this mano y mano action is the best thing going in cinema today, and The Bourne Ultimatum is going to be a box office juggernaut.
2) Rush Hour 3
Is the magic gone? This is the question most often asked of the Rush Hour franchise. As the last major sequel of the biggest summer for sequels ever, the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker buddy cop franchise has a lot of expectations. The debate regarding its potential box office upside breaks down into a good news/bad news discussion. The bad news is straightforward. It has been so long (six years) since the last Rush Hour movie that audiences may have forgotten what made it such a blockbuster. The good news may or may not counterbalance this. Rush Hour 2 was very well received, considered one of the best movies of its type since at least Lethal Weapon if not the original 48 Hours. Is that enough to survive six years of consumerist out of sight/out of mind concerns? I believe so at least to some degree. I do not expect an opening weekend matching Rush Hour 2 ($67.4 million) nor do I expect duplication in terms of final box office ($226.1 million). It will certainly make enough to be remembered as a hit while earning New Line a large profit...and that's really all they want, anyway.
We have seen new movies involving Spider-Man, Shrek, the Fantastic Four, Harry Potter and the Transformers, yet the breakout star to date is one Seth Rogen. The man who wasn't TV-pretty enough to be the star of Undeclared finds that he can succeed as a lead actor in Knocked Up to the tune of $145.2 million. He is now prepared to break out as a film scribe, writing three titles scheduled for release in the next 18 months. The first of these is Superbad, and the buzz on it is deafening. Sony has cleverly found a positive in the premise of the red band trailer (a trailer deemed unfit for people under 17), showing it on the Internet to kids who have eaten it up. The end result is that "McLovin" is the message board nickname of choice and Superbad is poised to low-budgeted comedy to break out to the tune of $80 million or more.
4) The Invasion
BOP staff's has lovingly referred to this as The Disaster Project for a while now. How a title headlined by Nicole Kidman and the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, could have required so many re-shoots is a mystery. Originally intended for release last summer, this project was basically white-washed. The Wachowski Brothers were brought on-board to re-write the script (of an already finished film, no less) while their buddy, James McTeigue (V for Vendetta) was authorized to shoot $10 million worth of new scenes. In one of the biggest surprises in the industry since Mel Gibson's Payback was salvaged, this bold strategy has apparently worked. Warner Bros. seems to feel that this production has gone from a joke to a potential hit. Color me impressed if they have pulled off that feat.
Oh, how I wish I had more hope than this for one of my favorite books of all time. I've read Stardust three times now and I have long wished for a movie adaptation that did justice to the wonderful story of a boy's quest to catch a fallen star. Neil Gaiman's work is a timeless piece of fantasy that I look forward to reading to my children one day, but the trailer shown for this release looks...let's be honest...awful. I wish it were not true. I gain no satisfaction from stating the point, but that's where we stand. This makes me wonder how a person less inclined to watch the film will feel given that someone as passionate about it as myself sees the commercials and thinks, "Oh ye gods." I desperately want to believe that this is a Galaxy Quest situation, one where the ads suck but the movie itself is sheer genius. I will maintain this illusion until I go see Stardust, but I think all of us die hard Gaiman fans are braced for the inevitable disappointment here. Stardust looks like a miss, both in terms of quality and in box office performance. Then again, it's August, so a $50 million miss still should be good enough for top five performance.
I might be completely wrong about this, but I am of the opinion that this is the rare horror movie in 2007 to do well. In point of fact, I expect it to do very well, delivering a sensational opening weekend before falling off the table like so many horror films do. The presence of Rob Zombie has created awareness for this project that would have been otherwise missing, the end result being a project that could do Texas Chainsaw Massacre re-make numbers.
I am one of six people in the world who really, really liked The One, the last film starring Jason Statham and Jet Li. So, you should probably keep that in mind going in. What is important here is the box office track record of Jet Li, which is an opening weekend in the teens and final domestic receipts between $25 and $55 million. This has been the case for every title in which he has starred since 2000, and I see no reason to expect a large variance from this behavior. More than anything else, what I expect is for me to like this one more than anyone else. I am deeply impressed by the roles Li has chosen in maintaining his career as the most enigmatic action star in the world.
Look at the box office of George of the Jungle and Inspector Gadget before you say anything here. Disney knows their target audience all too well. Underdog is what it is, a calculated attempt to make money off of a talking dog. It will work some, but it won't be a blockbuster by any stretch.
9) Balls of Fury
I don't say this often, but I don't even know who the star of this movie is. Dan Fogler has been in exactly two movies I know (Good Luck Chuck and School for Scoundrels) and I haven't seen the one of those that has been released. What's odd is the fact that in spite of this, the movie strikes me as potentially great. Very funny people including Thomas Lennon (The State and Reno! 911), Terry Crews (the father on Everybody Hates Chris), Aisha Tyler (former host of Talk Soup), and Diedrich Bader (Office Space and The Drew Carey Show) all compliment the unknown lead actor here. Also, Maggie Q is on-board as the love interest and that news alone would make me likely to see this project. Of course, I am not projecting the success of Balls of Fury based upon my desire to see it. Instead, it's the shocking quality of the trailer that has me impressed. Everyone recognizes what a stupid concept this is for a movie yet we can't stop ourselves from laughing anyway. Sure, "What part of sudden death didn't you understand?" is a cheap joke, but it really works here. Balls of Fury may turn out to be another disappointing comedy wherein all of the big laughs are in the trailer, but it clearly seems to have struck a chord with its target audience.
10) Becoming Jane
There are approximately 73 wide releases in August, so picking the tenth spot is akin to throwing darts at the potential film titles. I've selected Becoming Jane despite the fact that reviews for it are not as glowing as I had expected. Given that it needs this sort of word-of-mouth in order to have a successful platform release, this is troubling to a degree. Despite this, I have to believe that enough people will equate this to being equal parts Emma and Shakespeare in Love to make it the most popular chick flick of the late summer schedule. Given that the only such film in the genre to date to have anything resembling success is No Reservations, I do feel that the target demographic is hungry for something....anything demonstrating even a hint of quality. Becoming Jane may or may not suffice in this regard.