Weekend Forecast for August 1-3, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
August 1, 2008

And stay off my lawn!

With the change of the calendar to August, there's a noticeable sea change in the box office. Although it's still summer, blockbuster fatigue starts to set in, and the releases that are designed to be the big ones of the weekend can just feel off, like this week's.

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a classic example of the sort of late summer substandard "blockbuster" that I'm talking about. A second sequel that no one was really clamoring for, with numerous cast and locale changes, it's one of those sequels that seems to have been made for no other reason than that the cast was under contract.

Brendan Fraser returns as his knockoff Indiana Jones mummy hunter Rick something or other, with the scene shifting to China, where they apparently had mummies there too, 2,000 years ago. And they apparently knew kung fu, considering this one is played by Jet Li (who retires from action films about as well as Brett Favre retires from football). After awakening his spirit, he attempts to take over the world using his control over the five elements (earth, fire, air, water, and uh...maybe love? They're clearly just making this stuff up as they go) and a whole lot of terracotta warriors. Oooh, clay. Scary!

Rachel Weisz, who obviously shoved her Oscar in the producers' face, has been replaced as Fraser's wife by Maria Bello, attempting an accent and dyed brunette. Oded Fehr is nowhere to be found, and we suddenly have Fraser's grownup son appear, who ages in soap opera time. Michelle Yeoh is on hand for good measure as our female ass kicker, loading up the cast to critical levels.

Where this film appears to go wrong is that the fun loving spirit of the first two Mummy films seems to be gone, in favor of soulless CGI battles. What made this series stand out in the action-adventure genre was the joy it seemed to have with the concept of fighting undead monsters. Now it feels like they're wildly swinging about for a reason to make this movie. Fraser gives is a go, and he's never not enthusiastic and charming on screen, but as the recent Journey to the Center of the Earth shows, that's not always enough. Despite all these negatives, it's likely to have at least one good weekend based on the franchise name. It's set to challenge for top spot this weekend, and with about $41 million, it could grab it.

It's difficult to tell if Swing Vote arrives the perfect time, or just at the wrong time. Or perhaps, given that it's a political satire starring Kevin Costner, there's no right time for it.

Costner stars as a bit of a reprobate single dad, who's guilted into voting for President by his daughter. Through a series of wacky (and impossible, and possibly unconstitutional, but let's give the movie its premise) events, his vote is swallowed up by a glitch and an exact tie is declared in his state, leaving his re-vote to decide the entire Presidential election.

As he becomes the focus of attention of not just the two candidates (with Dennis Hopper for the Democrats and Kelsey Grammer for the Republicans) but also an eager national media, Costner's every-man schmoe becomes a symbol for all of America or some such rot. OK, maybe I'm being a bit hard on the film - this is the kind of role Costner really excels at, despite his status as box office poison. But satires are always tough sales, especially political ones. Take a look at Man of the Year, which went at this issue from the other direction (it also wasn't funny, but let's not get too far off the mark here). In spite of all these negatives, I can see it doing at least okay in terms of a Kevin Costner film, and opening to about $9 million.

The Dark Knight became the top grossing movie of 2008 on Monday, its 11th day of release, and barely broke a sweat in doing so. Coming into its third weekend with about $350 million, or about as much as Jurassic Park's total domestic box office, the superhero film is trying for not only a third straight number one position at the box office, but also a record for fastest film to $400 million. It would take a shocking performance for it to get there this weekend, but then it's been shocking us all along. And of course, it's got lots of time, as even getting there by the end of next weekend would about halve the current record of 43 days by Shrek 2. The highest ever third weekend is also at stake here, with The Dark Knight having the potential to pass Spider-Man's $45 million.

That's probably not in the cards after its more than 50% drop last weekend. While you generally expect that kind of drop for any film with as much opening hype as this one, there was thought that the incredible word-of-mouth could help it to buck that trend. That kind of support didn't materialize, but we're still looking at a massively popular film here. Its second weekend would have been fourth best of the year, and 20th in total box office for 2008. I like its chances to repeat at the top spot of the box office, with The Mummy 3 having a much greater potential to fail. Give The Dark Knight $44 million for weekend number three.

Step Brothers was a decent success for Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, earning $31 million on the backs of overgrown manchild slapstick comedy (somewhere, Adam Sandler's ears are burning). It was a nice recovery for both in the comedy department after the twin disappointments of Semi-Pro and Walk Hard. It remains the number one comedy option out there this weekend, to the tune of about $17 million.

Mamma Mia! is still showing surprising strength, with about $70 million after two weekends, despite what many are calling an incompetent production. Musical fans aren't that discerning, I suppose. Look for the ABBA scourge to remain relevant with around $11 million this weekend.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe was a shocking failure, with an opening of just $10 million, hammering the nails shut on the franchise's coffin once and for all. While I was, let's say, notably bullish on its prospects, few people really expected quite the level of bombing that the former TV series was in for. It's only going to get worse for it from here, to the point where $4 million might be optimistic this weekend.